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South African Army overstretched – DoD

South African Army soldiers.The South African Army is overstretched, with a lack of human resources, infrastructure and prime mission equipment to support its mandate, according to the Department of Defence.

In its annual report for the 2013/14 financial year, the DoD said that during the year under review, “the state of prime mission equipment, particularly in the Landward Defence Programme, continued to decline to unacceptable levels. The rejuvenation of these capabilities therefore remains one of the DoD’s top priorities.”

The report went on to say that the SA Army Force Structure Elements (FSEs) remained overstretched, especially in the infantry, engineer, intelligence, signal and support environments. This was further exacerbated by the fact that the rejuvenation/revitalisation of the Regulars through Military Skills Development System (MSDS) augmentation was “limited”.

“The landward defence capability lacks the required human resources, infrastructure and technologically appropriate Prime Mission Equipment (PME) in support of the defence mandate,” the report said, but noted that the future SA Army Strategy is supported by a detailed PME and Technology Requirement Support Plan, which has directed and prioritised the requirements in terms of equipment and technology acquisition.

Part of the Army’s prime mission equipment plan includes the acquisition of the Badger infantry fighting vehicle. A contract was placed with Denel Land Systems in September 2013 for 238 vehicles, which will enter service by 2022. “This contract represents the most significant Defence contract ever signed with a South African company,” the Annual Report said.

As a result of the Badger acquisition, the landward defence budget will rise accordingly. For the 2013/14 financial year it was R13.85 billion, increasing to R13.99 billion for 2014/15 and R15.14 billion for 2015/16. However, the final appropriation for 2013/14 was only R13.599 billion. No mention was made of funding other projects, such as Sapula and Vistula, for armoured vehicles and trucks.

Earlier this year SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, said funding shortages were evidencing themselves in, among others, a lack of progress on new equipment acquisition; no suitable exit mechanism for “elderly” members of the Army; facilities that needed urgent repair to make them properly habitable and insufficient, “not the right” recruits coming through the military skills development system.

“I would have to say without putting any monetary value on it that the SANDF should have a budget that is appropriate to the tasks it is given,” he said. “At present the Army is under strain to fulfil its national and international obligations as our forces become more and more in demand. There is an increase in requests for internal and external support that has led to the Army deploying available force levels for extended periods. These exceed what is deemed the international norm. Such strain can only be sustained for a limited period after which mission readiness can become compromised,” he warned.

Speaking in August, Masondo said there was hope in the 2014 Defence Review: “We have been aware of challenges that have been hindering our operations for a few years and have since reported that to our principals. It also gives us great joy that our requests are now being considered, albeit in a phased approach, depending on the availability of funds.”

The Annual Report said that in spite of its challenges, “The SA Army relentlessly continued its quest to support the achievement of the Medium-term Strategic Framework (MTSF) outcomes….” Various international and domestic duties were carried out, with an average of 2 004 members deployed in support of United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) peace support operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan. As part of Mission Thebe in the DRC, the SA Army trained the Forces Armees de la République Démocratique de Congo (FARDC) and held a formal parade on 8 March 2014. Externally, the SA Army also provided equipment and soldiers to combat piracy in the Mozambique Channel.

The Annual Report notes that of the SANDF’s six ordered external operations, only five were achieved after the mission in the Central African Republic was terminated after the March 2013 Battle of Bangui.

At home, the SA Army contributed to humanitarian relief efforts by building low-cost bridges in the Eastern Cape for use by pedestrians in rural communities. Three bridges in the Eastern Cape, namely in Qunu, Mancan and Pitseng, were completed and the SA Army is committed to completing more bridges in the future, according to the Annual Report.

The Army was heavily involved in safeguarding South Africa’s borders, with some operational successes including the confiscation of 16 weapons (pistols and hunting rifles), apprehension of thousands of illegal foreigners, arrest of criminals, apprehension of poachers, recovery of stolen vehicles, confiscation of dagga, recovery of 2 227 livestock, recovery of 94.5 kg of copper, and confiscation of contraband goods to the value of R31 400 995.

The SANDF also provided assistance to the South African Police Service in safeguarding the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis (ACIRC) summit held in Pretoria, safeguarding the Orange African Nations Championship soccer tournament at various venues and support was provided during the registration process for the national elections.

Support was provided to the Department of Correctional Services after continuous rain in the Overberg area, and when entry and exit routes to the Helderstroom Correctional Services facility was flooded. The SANDF airlifted personnel and provided medical supplies and rations to the inmates. In maintaining essential services during times of crises, the SANDF assisted the Brits municipality in the Northwest Province with the provision of water for the community and flood relief in the Hoedspruit area.

On the diplomatic side, for the development of artillery cooperation and the establishment of the Namibian Army School of Artillery, the SA Army assisted the Namibian Defence Force with the development of courses and ultimately the establishment of the Namibian School of Artillery.

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