Defence minister on warpath
An extensive audit to locate hundreds of thousands of hectares of defence force land, held in "trust" by the Department of Public Works, is under way.
The audit, expected to be completed by 2014, will establish the amount of land the defence force owns, and its location.
For decades the Department of Public Works has held land in trust for the Defence Ministry.
Now, with a dire need for housing, schools, creches and frail-care facilities for soldiers and their families, the defence force is racing to locate its property.
Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in her pre-budget vote press conference in Cape Town last week, said locating the land was of paramount importance.
"Annually the defence force spends R1.8-billion on estate management, yet we do not even know how much land we own.
"We have audited our indebted land, locating 450000 hectares, which amounts to billions of rands worth of land. With the private sector, we want to make this land productive - to use it to develop rural communities and create small towns," Sisulu said.
She said their concerns were now about land they did not know of.
"It is this land which is being held in a trust for us by the Public Works Department. We are at our wits' end trying to get an answer from the department on exactly how much land they are holding for us and where it is.
"Their first priority should be to get their house in order, but it does not appear that they are, especially not in regard to land and properties. We believe what we own runs into billions of rands.
"The audit will now, once and for all, establish exactly what we own and where it is.
"Once we know this, we can look at things such as land swaps, where, with another government department, we can exchange land that is of no use to us," she said.
When asked why it was taking so long to establish how much land the Defence Ministry owned, Sisulu said she had no idea.
"I cannot say why the Public Works Department is dragging its feet. All we want is what is ours. We want to know what we have and we want it. It is that simple.
"This process has become extremely frustrating - an issue which requires an urgent solution. The critical shortage of facilities such as housing, schools, clinics and frail care for our soldiers make the location of our property an urgent priority."