Details of the South African Defence Secretariat

By | October 24, 2017

Details of the South African Defence Secretariat



Department of Defence

During the apartheid era the Department of Defence was militarised, with most of its functions being performed by the Defence Headquarters. In the interests of entrenching democratic civil-military relations, the Defence Act provides for a Department of Defence which comprises the SANDF and a civilian Defence Secretariat.

The Minister of Defence is responsible for the defence function of government and is accountable to the President, the Cabinet and Parliament for the management and execution of this function. The Minister constitutes the civilian authority on military matters on behalf of Cabinet.

The minister Directs and controls performance of the defence function through, inter alia, the statutory Council on Defence. The Chief of the SANDF and the Secretary for Defence serve on this body. They have equal status under the Minister, and serve as co-chairpersons of the Defence Staff Council which tenders advice to the Minister.

The respective statutory powers and functions of the Chief of the SANDF and the Secretary for Defence are governed by the Defence Act of 2002.

The Secretary for Defence manages the Secretariat and will be the accounting officer of the DOD. He/She is the principal advisor to the Minister regarding defence policy and matters which may be investigated by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence. The Secretary will perform such duties and functions as may be necessary for democratic and civilian management of the defence function and to enhance parliamentary and Ministerial control over the SANDF. The Secretary will monitor compliance with directions issued to the Chief of the SANDF by the President or the Minister.

The Chief of the SANDF executes defence policy, directs the work of Defence Headquarters and manages the overall functioning and operations of the Defence Force. He/She is the principal adviser to the Minister on military, operational and administrative matters within his/her competence.

In determining the respective functions of the Secretariat and Defence Headquarters, there are two basic guidelines. Firstly civilians formulate defence policy and the military executes this policy. Secondly, civilians are responsible for the political dimensions of defence. This breakdown does not prevent military officers from contributing to policy formulation on the basis of their functional expertise.

RELATED :   University Reserve Training Programme | SANDF

It is intended that a large number of posts, of which the greater number will be the Financial Section, will be transferred from defence Headquarters to the Secretariat.

The minister aims to staff these posts predominantly with civilians. The composition of the Secretariat will be broadly representative of the racial and gender composition of South African society. This will be achieved through selective recruitment, accelerated training, civilianisation of present incumbents and lateral entry. Senior military officers are not precluded from being seconded to work in the secretariat on the basis of their functional expertise.

The Defence Secretariat

The role of a Department of State is to formulate policies, programmes and budgets and to control the execution of the mandate of the defence force.

The Constitution establishes a Defence Secretariat to assist the Minister with the management of the defence function. Section 204 of the Constitution states: ‘A civilian Secretariat for Defence must be established by national legislation to function under the direction of the cabinet member responsible for Defence.

The national legislation referred to in the constitution is provided in Section 6 of the Defence Act 2002 by virtue of item 2, Schedule 6 of the Constitution. The Defence Secretariat is established by section 6(1): ‘The civilian secretariat for defence contemplated in section 204 of the constitution is hereby established as the Defence Secretariat’.

Section 6(2) of the Defence Act states: ‘The Minister must, subject to the laws governing the public service, appoint such number of persons to posts in the Defence Secretariat as may be necessary’. This section clearly indicates that the members named here are civilians as envisaged in the constitution. Section 6(3) also allows for members of the SANDF with their consent to be placed at the disposal of the Secretary to serve in posts in the Secretariat. These personnel do not lose their identity as members of the SANDF.

Core Functions / Components

Section 8 of the Defence Act defines the role of the Secretary for Defence (Secretary). The Secretary shall be a citizen of the Republic and may not be a member of the SANDF. The Secretary shall:

  • Be the head of department and accounting officer of the DOD
  • Be the head of the Defence Secretariat and as such be responsible for the management of and administrative control over the staff of the Defence Secretariat.
  • Be the principal departmental adviser to the Minister with regard to defence policy matters as well as any matter which may be investigated by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence of the parliament under section 228(3)(d) of the constitution and in respect of which that committee may make recommendations.
  • Advise the Minister on any particular matter referred by Minister to the Secretary.
  • Perform such duties and functions as may from time to time assigned or referred to him or her by the Minister, in particular any function or duty necessary or expedient to enhance Parliamentary oversight and Ministerial control over the SANDF.
  • Provide C SANDF with comprehensive instructions for the issuing of orders and directives and the giving of commands with regards to the functioning of the Secretary as head of department and accounting officer of the DOD.
  • Monitor compliance with directions issued by the Minister under the Constitution, to C SANDF and report thereon to the Minister.
  • Perform all functions of head of department regarding the effective management and administration of the DOD.
RELATED :   South African (SA) Army Career Opportunities


Excellence in governance to ensure efficient and effective defence delivery.


The Secretary for Defence directs specified managerial, administrative and advisory services to achieve the ends of the Defence Strategy and to enhance and effect the MOD’s capacity for civil control.


  • Discipline
  • Transparency
  • Excellence through leadership
  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Responsibility
  • Fairness


Defence Secretariat