Twenty years of democracy: An analysis of parliamentary oversight of the military in South Africa since 1994

Janse van Rensburg, Wilhelm Keyter (2019-04)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Prior to 1994, the practice of parliamentary oversight of the military in South Africa was extremely limited. The post-1994 shift to liberal democracy characterised by representativeness and constitutionalism brought about significant changes to the state’s civil-military relations. Within the paradigm of liberalism, civil-military relations were reshaped to ensure civil-supremacy over the military. Parliament, a central feature of representative democracy, emerged as a key institution to ensure democratic civil-military relations. This thesis reviews parliamentary oversight of the military in South Africa between 1994 and 2014 in the context of democratic civil-military relations and the associated characteristics of transparency and accountability. Two distinct parliamentary periods characterised the first twenty years of democracy. The first ten years focused on Parliament’s legislative function while a shift to its oversight function is observed after 2004. Oversight of the military is reviewed separately for these two periods. The study compiles a list of criteria for the review of parliamentary oversight of the military and applies such criteria to the two identified periods. This criteria include the availability and extensive use of oversight tools such as committee hearings, hearings in the plenary, commissions of inquiry, parliamentary questions (oral and written) and interpellations. For parliaments to thoroughly oversee the military, several focus areas were also identified, including the defence budget, policies, procurement, human resources and the deployment of the military. The study aims to enhance these criteria by looking at lower-order focus areas, including annual and quarterly departmental performance, interdepartmental cooperation, military training and education, gender and racial equality, defence morale and defence infrastructure. Furthermore, potential weaknesses for oversight of the military are identified, including the constitutional and legal powers to do oversight; resources and expertise available to parliaments; the political will to conduct oversight; and, follow-up on parliamentary recommendations. Through the application of the criteria above, the study finds that during the first two parliaments (1994 to 2004) efforts were made to define defence policy and legislation within the newfound liberal democratic context. After 2004, focus shifted to the institutions’ oversight function. Parliamentary processes, structures and oversight-enhancing legislation improved significantly between 2004 and 2014 to enrich the potential for thorough oversight. Based on these improvements, and the relatively elevated levels of oversight already achieved by the defence committees in the First Parliament, a continuously improved level of parliamentary oversight of the military could thus be expected. However, oversight of the military did not improve in line with the institutional scope offered for improvement. There was a shift away from de-politicised, consensus-seeking oversight observed during the First Parliament. Oversight tools were not used optimally, focus areas of oversight not balanced and risks to effective oversight manifested over time. A declining political will to conduct oversight is of specific concern. Low levels of oversight became considerably amplified in the Fourth Parliament. The quality of oversight therefore showed contextual regression, bringing into question the standing of parliamentary oversight of the military.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Voor 1994 was die praktyk van parlementêre oorsig van die weermag in Suid Afrika uiters beperk. Ná 1994 het die skuif na ‘n liberale demokrasie, wat deur verteenwoordiging en grondwetlikheid gekenmerk is, die land se burgerlik-militêre verhoudinge merkbaar verander. Binne ‘n liberale paradigma is burgerlik-militêre verhoudinge omskep om burgerlike beheer van die weermag te verseker. Die parlement, wat ‘n sentrale rol speel in ‘n verteenwoordigende demokrasie wat burgerlik-militêre verhoudinge verseker, het as ‘n belangrike instansie na vore getree. Hierdie tesis beoordeel parlementêre oorsig van die weermag in Suid Afrika vanaf 1994 tot 2014 in die konteks van demokraties-burgerlik-militêre verhoudinge en daarmee gepaardgaande kenmerke soos deursigtigheid en verantwoordbaarheid. Twee duidelike parlementêre periodes het die eerste twintig jaar van demokrasie gekenmerk. Gedurende die eerste tien jaar het die Parlement hoofsaaklik op sy wetgewende funksie gefokus, terwyl ‘n skuif in fokus na ‘n oorsig-funksie ná 2004 merkbaar is. Oorsig van die weermag word in hierdie tesis vir die twee periodes afsonderlik beoordeel. Die studie stel ‘n lys kriteria saam wat aangewend kan word om parlementêre oorsig van die weermag te beoordeel en hierdie kriteria word toegepas op die twee geïdentifiseerde periodes. Die kriteria sluit die beskikbaarheid en uitgebreide gebruik van oorsigmeganismes soos komiteevergaderings, sittings in die huise van die Parlement parlementêre vrae (geskrewe en mondelings) en interpellasies in. Vir deeglike oorsig van die weermag is verskeie fokusareas ook geïdentifiseer wat die verdedigingsbegroting, verdedigingsbeleid, verkryging, menslike hulpbronne en die ontplooïng van die weermag insluit. Die studie brei uit op hierdie kriteria deur die insluiting van verskeie laer-vlak fokusareas. Hierdie areas sluit departementele jaar- en kwartaalverslae, interdepartementele samewerking, weermag opleiding en opvoeding, geslags- en rasgelykheid, die moraal van die weermag en verdedigings-infrastruktuur in. Verder word moontlike swakhede van oorsig oor die weermag ook geïdentifiseer, insluitend grondwetlike en wetgewende magte om oorsig uit te voer, die beskikbaarheid van hulpbronne en kundigheid aan die parlemente, die politieke wil om oorsig uit te voer en opvolg op parlementêre aanbevelings. Deur die gebruik van bogenoemde kriteria kom die studie tot die bevinding dat gedurende die eerste twee parlemente (1994 tot 2004) daar gepoog is om verdedigingswetgewing en -beleid te definieër binne die nuutgevonde liberale demokratiese konteks. Ná 2004 het die fokus na die parlement se oorsig funksie verskuif. Skuiwe in parlementêre prosesse, -strukture en wetgewing wat daarop gemik is om oorsig te verbeter, het die potensiaal vir oorsig tussen 2004 en 2014 merkbaar verbeter. Gegewe hierdie vooruitang, asook die relatief hoër vlakke van oorsig wat bereik is deur die verdedigingskomitees gedurende die Eerste Parlement, was verdere en voortdurende vooruitgang dus te wagte. Oorsig van die weermag het egter nie in lyn met vooruitgang in die instelling verbeter nie. Oorsig het wegbeweeg van die Eerste Parlement se pogings om oorsig van die weermag te depolitiseer en konsensus-gesentreerd te wees. Oorsigmeganismes is nie optimaal benut nie, fokusareas van oorsig is nie gebalanseer nie en betekenisvolle risikos wat effektiewe oorsig ondermyn het oor tyd duidelik geword. ‘n Verminderende politieke wil om oorsig van die weermag uit te voer, was spesifiek kommerwekkend. Lae vlakke van oorsig het veral in die Vierde Parlement uitgestaan. Die gehalte van oorsig het dus agteruitgang getoon wat die algehele stand van parlementêre oorsig van die weermag bevraagteken.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105774
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