AMD calls on new defence minister to renew investment in South Africa’s defence capabilities

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In an open letter to a new Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, the South African Aerospace Maritime, and Defence Industries Association (AMD) calls on Thandi Modise’s successor to renew investment in the country’s national defence capabilities.

“As the country enters an era of a Government of National Unity, we are hopeful that this transition will come with a renewed commitment to the prioritisation of the safety and security of our people,” wrote AMD CEO Sandile Ndlovu.

“As you take up this role, you will be faced with an urgent and crucial task: revamping our national defence capabilities to effectively address both our internal and external safety and security challenges.”

Ndlovu pointed out that at the first AMD National Security and Safety Townhall in Sandton in May, all political parties involved agreed that the nation’s security is paramount, with concerns about resource allocation, the need for a robust defence industry, and human security challenges such as inequality, poverty, and unemployment – factors that underpin political stability and national security.

“As representatives of the defence and security industry, we believe it is imperative to highlight what we believe should be priority,” Ndlovu wrote, and this includes:

1. Enhancing the capabilities of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which is beset by challenges, including but not limited to, inadequate funding and training, outdated equipment, and severe operational limitations.

“These issues have compromised our ability to protect South Africa’s territorial integrity and support state security services. We believe that the priority should be to revamp SANDF’s capabilities to ensure that it has the personnel, technology, and infrastructure required to fulfil its mandate, namely the protection of our people, borders, environment, and infrastructure.”

2. Partnering with the private sector for financing to allow innovation, efficiency, and sustainable development of military capabilities: “There are two imperatives from a funding point of view that should be undertaken. The first is increasing defence budget allocations to at least 1% of the GDP to counteract the negative impacts of previous budget cuts and to combat the inflationary impact.

“Defence analysts agree that the SANDF is so severely underfunded and defence spending is now about 0.7% of GDP, versus the international norm of 2% of GDP. As a result, the SANDF simply cannot meet the commitments required of it in terms of its mandate and defence policy.

“We are aware of the country’s strained budgets, and we have therefore proposed a private-public funding model. This model aligns with the global trend of engaging the private sector in defence funding, allowing for innovation, efficiency, and sustainable military capabilities. It offers a pragmatic and immediate solution to our fiscal constraints; it provides for a payment plan that allows private companies to assume the financial responsibility for developing and delivering military systems and government paying for these systems over an extended period.”

Thirdly, AMD wants to see the revitalisation of the defence and security industry by buying local. “Approximately 95% of the armaments and equipment produced locally by our sector are shipped to global markets, contributing significantly to their ability to protect and defend their countries against internal and external threats. That global success does not translate locally.

“For an industry to flourish a market must exist and that is simply not the case for the defence and security industry in South Africa currently. A robust local manufacturing capability will bolster our overall defence capabilities, provide opportunities for job creation, skills development and advancement of our technological abilities.

“In addition, increased spending will mean new equipment, better training for our soldiers and the attraction of new talent, especially our youth. The defence sector offers employment opportunities including doctors, engineers, lawyers, which would help in addressing the high unemployment rate especially in this group.

“South Africa’s national interest is a delicate balance of competing priorities. We do believe that an investment in the sector can play a role in contributing to the relief of our country’s human security challenges. Our industry has the potential to contribute 3.5% to our GDP, which would make a meaningful contribution toward addressing our socio-economic challenges.”

Ndlovu emphasised that the success of South Africa’s national defence capabilities hinges on the political will of its leaders, and urged the new administration to demonstrate to the people of South Africa its commitment to addressing the complex and interconnected issues of defence, development, and human security.

“Only through decisive and inclusive action can South Africa ensure a secure and prosperous future for its citizens. The time for rhetoric has passed; now is the moment for bold and effective leadership in national defence.

“On behalf of AMD and its members, we stand ready to assist and support you in seeking bold and innovative solutions to secure our nation’s defence capabilities and safeguard the sovereignty our country,” Ndlovu concluded.