The reference, almost in passing, to the work the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is doing in Africa as an instrument of government’s foreign policy by President Zuma during his State of the Nation Address does not inspire confidence in the all-important area of budget allocations.
The Chiefs of the Air Force and Army have both made public mention of the constant battle to balance tasks with resources – financial, human and equipment. That these arms of service have succeeded in successfully undertaking and completing all tasks assigned to them is a tribute to the professionalism and “make it work” attitude of Senior Command Cadres working in conjunction with Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi’s Joint Operations Division.
But this situation should not be allowed to continue. Military analysts expect more calls to be made on the services of the country’s uniformed civil servants in the immediate future. This was reinforced by SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo. Late last year said he was “fully expecting” elements of the landward force to be deployed to Mali. That this is not going to happen according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula does not detract one iota from the SANDF’s need for more funding.
Given that at least another two companies are earmarked for border protection deployment in the coming financial year, and the Mozambique Channel anti-piracy tasking Operation Copper is ongoing, there is certainly a need for more funding to flow the way of the South African military.
As with defence forces across the world, training is absolutely essential if tasks are to be properly executed and it deserves a better funding allocation.
Then there is the thorny question of equipment. The Army desperately needs new vehicles, both for combat and logistics. As the major component of deployments continentally and in country surely it is time to make money available for the long-suffering backbone of the SANDF.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordham would be doing right by the SANDF if he increases its allocation of the national budget when he informs the nation how and where its taxes will be spent on Wednesday.
He would do well to take heed of SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke’s words at a Cape Town medal parade.
“The Department of Defence is one of South Africa’s foreign policy pillars. It is used to operationalise South Africa’s international obligation and memoranda of understanding with other countries in pursuit of the African Agenda.”