Modise pledges support for SA defence industry

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has said she is committed to supporting South Africa’s defence industry because a healthy defence industry will in turn support the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Modise, answering questions in Parliament in mid-March, said she has tasked state defence materiel organisation Armscor with developing a survival strategy for the defence industry, and has asked Armscor to be the salesperson on behalf of the sector.

“The main reason we want to grow the South African defence industry is because without it the national defence force is in disarray. Our capabilities are down. We cannot depend on Treasury to give us all the money that we need. Our IP has flown. But even if the IP had not flown, we do need as a country to bring in more resources, more money into the defence industry for innovation, for upgrades,” she said.

She added that the defence industry contributes significantly towards the fiscus and economic activity. “We are not going to throw away the industry here. We need it to survive but we also need them to grow.”

Modise told parliamentarians that the Department of Defence (DoD) is “running around the world, we are creating partners between countries,” and also bringing different companies together. She said the DoD will be marketeers for local defence companies and “shall carry their pamphlets,” just like defence ministers in other countries do. “We shall be their salespeople.”

She mentioned progress in Abu Dhabi in February during the IDEX defence exhibition, which saw the participation of many local companies, and the signing of agreements. For example, Armscor signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s Poly Technologies. During IDEX, “we sorted out the differences between the defence industry with Armscor, amongst themselves and with ourselves,” Modise said. “Matching companies and creating partners with other entities out there is also a source of expansion for the south African defence industry. We will soon be invited to go and look at India in terms of partnerships.”

The minister explained that Armscor has been tasked with coming up with a strategy “that will not only unite but also sharpen the skills within Armscor itself and will also be that salesperson on behalf of the defence industry. We have also said to them we want a survival strategy for the South African defence industry. We have said that more money must go into research and development. We have started talking to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research also to come to the party…We have also been challenging the universities…to work together with the defence industry so that we become this strong network that will create the survival net of all our resources. We are also working on the proposed intellectual property act so that we now begin to protect better the IP of the south African defence industry and the defence [force].”

With regard to the challenges at Denel, Modise said the Department of Defence is looking at ensuring Denel “stops being a business entity and begins to do what it was established to do. Denel was not set up to be just any other business entity and to be treated like such. It was a strategic group of companies under the umbrella of and supervision of Armscor and the Department of Defence, making sure that whatever else happens that the South African defence force was well catered for. That’s where we want to take it.”