31 March 2024 is deadline for Ministerial SANDF analysis and review

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has set 31 March next year as the deadline for a review and analysis of South Africa’s defence policy to, among others, “provide a realistic and sustainable future orientated defence value proposition”.

This, along with taking into account “current fiscal realities”, will shape the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and what it can and cannot do going ahead, she writes in her foreword to the 2023 Department of Defence (DoD) annual performance plan (APP). The plan was tabled [presumably in the National Assembly or one of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees] on 15 March.

Of the APP, Modise writes it “is developed in the context of continued geo-political and economic instability with the adverse impact both domestically, regionally and on the African continent”.

“Socio-economic demands for limited resources,” she writes further, “implies a defence allocation not commensurate with the constitutional mandate of defence”. This she sets out as defending and protecting South Africa, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force.

An allocated baseline increase funding-wise of 4.1% against an estimated 44% in required additional funding will “enable long overdue maintenance, repair and upgrade of identified critical prime mission equipment (PME)”.

Minister Modise issued five strategic imperatives to the DoD to “inform resource allocation and prioritised implementation”.

They are: safeguarding the nation through military missions, such as border safeguarding, maritime security, support to the SAPS (SA Police Service) and other ordered internal operations; securing regional development through a peace and security capability, deployment of “robust forces” and support to the African Union (AU) peace and security architecture; ensuring “hard power” through maintenance of a core combat capability to protect South African sovereignty; and protecting the country’s intangible sovereignty through support to the national cyber resilience initiative and ensuring defence digital protection.

The fifth imperative is nation building, where Modise envisages contributions to the national development imperative (presumably the National Development Plan 2030) through high impact projects, developing appropriate future defence leaders and innovative approaches to conducting defence business.

Elaborating, she referred to this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) where President Cyril Ramaphosa, also SANDF Commander-in-Chief, identified three requirements for the national military machine. They are protection of identified critical infrastructure in relation to the national energy crisis, supporting national infrastructure investment through upscaling the Welisizwe rural bridge programme to deliver 95 bridges a year from the current 24 and, in the interests of South African stability and prosperity, “government is duty bound to pursue interventions that will bring peace, stability and development on the continent”. The last will see the SANDF continue external continental operations, such as those in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique.

Internally, Modise sees internal controls and governance systems strengthening will continue to ensure accountable defence administration and information communication technology enabled resource management and application of “timeous consequence management in instances of non-compliance”.

The SANDF human resource component remains a concern with cost pressures on compensation of employees (CoE). On the positive side the Minister notes ongoing initiatives are seeing a decline in average departmental human resource strength and CoE shortfall.