A strong defence industry is needed to ensure South Africa’s national sovereignty – Makwetla

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Deputy Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thabang Makwetla maintains that South Africa’s national sovereignty is at risk without a robust defence sector, as a strong defence force is needed to defy any threat facing the country.

Makwetla gave the opening address at the Defence Demo Day 2023 held on 20 September at the Gerotek vehicle testing facility east of Pretoria. Defence attaches, members of industry and representatives from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) attended the demonstration day, which precedes the annual Sovereign Security Conference, this year being held on 21 September by Creative Space Media.

The deputy minister said South Africa’s defence industry underpins its sovereignty and pointed out that the previous government had to develop and sustain its own combat capabilities, with the private sector accepting the challenge. South Africa one was one of a few countries to establish a defence industry that could meet almost all military needs, something the industry needs to try and emulate today by working hand in glove with the South African National Defence Force.

South Africa is facing high levels of crime as well as unemployment and poverty but there is no money flowing from National Treasury in a meaningful way to the security cluster, Makwetla said. “But week in and week out the situation we find ourselves in is where the challenges to our defence force and police are reaching a crisis point. The security cluster is saddled with these issues on a weekly basis.”

Makwetla said South Africa sits on many important technologies that were developed by Armscor and Denel for the defence force, and the industry needs to claw back some of the technologies South Africa developed. He said it was concerning that some asset stripping had taken place and some of the South African defence industry had been disposed of or sold off.

Makwetla said the gathering of the industry at Gerotek is an important moment for government and captains of industry to exchange views about what can be done to grow the defence industry.

Isaac Motale, Business Development Executive at Reutech Solutions, said the defence industry is able, capable and willing to respond to the requirements of the South African National Defence Force, and the Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association has been engaging with the industry on dual use technologies and providing equipment to the South African Police Service.

The industry was out in force to showcase its many competitive products, with the Demo Day being dominated by armoured vehicles (shooting demonstrations and a demonstration by sniffer dogs were unfortunately cancelled). The display area at Gerotek was brimming with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), but also included military recovery vehicles from Miller Africa, one of which was towing a Ratel 90. OTT brought its Ratel SLEP (Service Life Extension Programme) infantry combat vehicle as well as its LM13 armoured personnel carrier and a Nyala riot control vehicle – the Ratel and LM13 were demonstrated on the mobility tracks, along with ICP’s Reva, Twiga’s Nyati, SVI’s six-wheeled Max 3 and armoured Mercedes V class and Toyota Land Cruiser.

In addition to its 4×4 armoured personnel carrier, Milkor showcased its 40 mm grenade launchers. Global Command and Control Technologies (GC2T) used a DCD Springbuck APC to showcase its command and control and navigation systems, which included a roof-mounted day/night camera for inputting data into its command and control system, and the ChakaNav vehicle navigation system.

Also using a vehicle to display its products, Hensoldt Optronics featured a mast-mounted surveillance gimbal fitted to a Toyota Land Cruiser. Other exhibitors included Armscor, Gerotek, Atlas Aviation/Atlas Oil, and Bullet Proofing Technology.

Click here to view the Defence Demo Day gallery.