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Cape Town - Documents leaked from the Department of Defence have revealed that a stalled programme has compromised the security at air force bases across South Africa for more than three years.
This comes three months after the Cape Argus reported on a spate of crime at Wynberg Military Base and 2 Military Hospital owing to the lack of security guards and secure fencing at the facility.
Code-named Project Vagrant, a detailed proposal for the security upgrade of SA Air Force (SAAF) facilities was approved by the department in November 2011.
In that month, the outline of the project was submitted to Armaments Corporation of SA (Armscor) - a state owned entity which is in charge of contracting for the procurement of security services and assets on behalf of the department.
Siphiwe Dlamini, the department’s spokesman, confirmed Project Vagrant’s existence and said that “each base and unit has its own unique requirement and design”.
Specifics about these requirements were classified and contracting was Armscor’s responsibility, he said.
“The department cannot comment on (Armscor’s) behalf,” Dlamini said, in response to queries about the reason for the delays.
Two weeks ago, Armscor spokeswoman Daphney Chuma promised that the corporation’s board would respond to Cape Argus queries about the reasons for the delay. A response was however not forthcoming.
David Maynier, the DA’s spokesman on defence, has slammed the department’s refusal to disclose information about Project Vagrant as an attempt at “covering up” the “monstrous inefficiency of the defence acquisition system”.
“The fact that Project Vagrant has not been implemented is evidently compromising the security of air force bases around South Africa. I shudder to think what else we will find once we break down the veil of secrecy surrounding defence acquisition at the Department of Defence,” Maynier said.
Pikkie Greeff, the national secretary of the SA National Defence Union, blamed Armscor, saying that the entity was defunct, wasteful and inefficient. He suggested that it should be done away with, arguing that the department had the capability of handling defence procurements internally. He said that the stunting of Project Vagrant was illustrative of the department’s wider failures in providing security for national key points and defence staff.
“Ultimately, it’s the state’s security that is being compromised on a broad scale. This obviously affects the security of staff working and living at department facilities. It’s a national disgrace,” he said.
Department documents from August suggest that department officials and Armscor’s board fell out over the stalling of Project Vagrant during a meeting in June.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula subsequently sacked Armscor chairman Lieutenant-General Moreti Motau and deputy chairwoman Refiloe Mokoena, saying that the pair were not creating “an enabling environment” for Armscor to support the department.
In late September, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the pair had been unfairly dismissed and should be reinstated. Court papers filed by the minister last week in support of the dismissal mentioned Project Vagrant and alleged that soldiers stationed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been left without tents and parachute equipment because of another Armscor failure to contract for programmes approved by the department.