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Defence minister says SA needs an ‘agile’ army after July unrest

The July unrest taught SA it needs an “agile” army, defence and military veterans minister Thandi Modise told the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Friday.

Modise was appointed to the defence ministry a month after death, devastation and widespread looting swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July.

“It has taught us we need an agile defence force, that even though we do not want the defence force to be deployed internally, we must be on hand. We must have the required transportation. We must have tools of the trade for members deployed,” she said.

Modise told the commission she did not see anything wrong with Durban businesses sponsoring accommodation and vehicles for troops deployed to support the police during the unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Looking at what was happening, would it have been wrong for South Africans to stand up to say [that] the police and military, who are defending our liberty, are in need of water and transport? I would say the situation demanded that all right-thinking South Africans would jump in.

“Did the Durban business community do this in return for anything? If they did, we would find something wrong with that. If they did it because they were trying to protect the interests of SA, then I would see nothing wrong,” she said.

“Is it an ideal situation? The ideal situation is that you have a defence force that is well equipped, well capacitated and agile. Is our defence force like that? You do know that over more than 10 years the budget has been cut,” she said.

Modise will continue her testimony at a later stage due to time constraints.

The scope of the unrest hearing, which started in Durban last Monday, includes alleged racially motivated killings, the lack of law enforcement, the role of private security companies, the targeting of retail outlets and businesses, and speculation that the unrest and looting were orchestrated.



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