Monday, October 23, 2017
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SONA not likely to provide insights on any defence issues

Defence and related issues have never featured prominently in the annual State of the National Address (SONA), delivered by President Jacob Zuma to mark the start of Parliamentary proceedings in early February.

The address sets out government priorities for the coming 12 months and it is generally informed by the outcomes of the ANC and Cabinet lekgotlas that follow the ruling party’s January 8 statement.

When Zuma steps up to the podium in the National Assembly on Thursday it looks like this year will be no different with the possible exception of the blue water economy component of Operation Phakisa.

Seasoned parliamentary watchers feel Zuma, who as South Africa’s first citizen is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), will tell the nation what’s store for it as far as boosting economic growth and fighting poverty and unemployment are concerned.

If he does venture into the defence sphere, indications of what lies in store for the Border Management Authority (BMA), upgraded from an agency last year, will be welcome. Will the BMA, as matters currently appear to stand be responsible only for border control at the 72 legal points of entry and exit into and out of South Africa? Or will some statesmanship be shown and its mandate extended to include the thousands of kilometres of especially land border where a thin line of soldiers attempts to halt what at times is a flood of illegal immigrants and black marketers intent on selling goods illegally?

There are many South Africans – both inside and outside the Parliamentary precinct in Cape Town – who would appreciate hearing from the horse’s mouth, as it were, what the situation is as regards acquisition of another VVIP aircraft is. This one-off acquisition has long been a bone of public contention and finalisation, one way or another, would be a step in the right direction.

Operation Phakisa is a presidential initiative to boost economic activity across various sectors, including the blue economy. An announcement of successful tenders to build new in- and offshore patrol vessels for the SA Navy would give some impetus where there has been very little over the past 12 months.

That would at least cover, albeit in a limited way, defence and the provision of employment.

defenceWeb isn’t holding its breath, but would be over the moon if the President proves us wrong.