Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s heartening maiden defence budget


Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s maiden budget, presented to Parliament three weeks short of her first year in office, was heartening.

Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, in particular, would have been happy to hear the Ministerial pronouncement that the contracting stage was in sight for the acquisition of various landward defence capabilities.

This includes the Badger to replace the Ratel infantry fighting vehicle and a new tactical and logistical support vehicle to replace the Samil.

Another arm of service chief who would have taken heart from her address is Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang of the SA Air Force. This in view of Mapisa-Nqakula’s announcement regarding the acquisition of new airlift capability.

Controversially, she told Parliament that the National Treasury had approved funding to acquire at least one and possibly four VVIP aircraft. This was met, as expected, with opposition from various quarters with political parties and NGO’s calling for the money rather to be spent on social upliftment programmes.

While she has not been anywhere nearly as high profile as her predecessor, indications are she is putting shoulder to the wheel. This was illustrated by, among others, her announcing that arrangements for the full-time members of the Defence Service Commission had been finalised, that further work was going ahead on the veterans side of her portfolio and that the sad state of many military facilities, including housing for soldiers and their families, was also on the priority list.

Money for these has been allocated in the budget. Add to this approval for the new VVIP aircraft acquisition and the Minister now has to twist the arms of those in charge of the purse strings for the Army’s much-needed equipment and to replace the 50-year-old C-130BZ Hercules.

One can only hope she encourages the Defence Portfolio Committee to follow up on its chairman’s Stanley Motimele’s statement that it will work with “the Standing Committee on Appropriations and other Parliamentary Structures to find solutions and check if it is possible for National Treasury to increase the Defence Department’s budget allocation”.