Army bakeries cost R700 000 each, but it’s not taxpayer money – Modise

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The burgeoning number of bakeries operated by the SA Army has not used taxpayer money, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise informed Parliament.

She was responding to questions posed by Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for her portfolio.

He was informed in a written reply there are “about seven” operational bakeries at Army bases with three “awaiting for installation (sic)”. The reply names exactly seven and states four are not yet operational.

Bakeries are up and running at army support bases (ASBs) in the Western Cape (Cape Town), Eastern Cape (Gqeberha), North West ( Potchefstroom),  Gauteng (Garrison in Thaba Tshwane and Johannesburg at Lenz), Limpopo (Polokwane) and Mpumalanga (Nelspruit). The written response lists ASBs in Free State (Bloemfontein), KwaZulu-Natal (Durban) and two for Northern Cape, both in Kimberley, one presumably incorrectly listed twice.

Modise told Marais the average capital cost per bakery was in the region of R700 000, including construction and renovation.

“All were established with non-public funds,” reads Modise’s response, which added “no public funds were involved”.  She further qualifies the funding aspect saying funds “from the combined clubs”, presumably a reference to contributions from mess associations or clubs, stokvels or other personnel efforts, possibly including regimental funds, but not elaborating.

Explaining the rationale behind the army bakeries, Modise informed her questioner the national defence force was and is subject to “unfortunate price hikes by the private sector on most commodities”.

With projects such as the bakeries, the targeted group (not explained) produces what the SANDF consumes with the commodities bought through commercialised messes, her written reply has it. She goes further, noting “commodities” are paid for at “cost plus” allowing producers to continue and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to boost the buying power of “an inadequate budget after paying salaries”.

According to Modise, bread production costs at army bakeries is R5 to R6 a loaf with the “bakeries project, once fully rolled out” providing “some cost savings while ensuring self-sustenance for the SANDF”.