As Election Day nears – today in two months South African voters go to the polls in national and provincial elections – defence in the wider sense of the word does not rate highly on the manifestos of the country’s larger political parties.
The manifesto of the ruling ANC does not mention “defence” as it applies to the national defence force, border and maritime protection or military deployments to support continental peacekeeping and peace support missions.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) alludes briefly to defence while the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) puts forward its plan to rejuvenate the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) manifestos make no mention of defence. The KwaZulu-Natal headquartered Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) will release its manifesto for the May 8 elections this weekend.
The DA concentrates solely on border protection with its manifesto stating the party has a plan to secure South Africa’s borders and stop illegal immigration. The party maintains it will deploy 22 companies to protect South Africa’s landward borders, without specifying a timeline. This is the number of companies originally planned for the border protection tasking by 2020. Financial constraints have seen the number rise to 15 and stagnate there.
Mmusi Maimane’s party will also, according to the manifesto, strengthen South Africa’s border posts which will be corruption-free and provide effective border security and control.
Pieter Groenewald’s FF+ demands effective border control with the party manifesto stating if this is effectively done it will restore the integrity of South Africa’s land borders.
On defence, the FF+ manifesto has it that “the quality of a defence force is determined by its equipment and people. South Africa falls short in both of these. The country’s military force deteriorated significantly as a result of long term financial shortages and neglect due to poor maintenance. A more serious problem is the lack of expertise and discipline in the defence force. At the moment, the only thing in South Africa’s favour is there is no obvious and immediate foreign threat.
“The FF Plus will combine the difficult task of re-establishing competence in the military force by enforcing strict discipline. The aim is to have a professional defence force with the will and ability to effectively defend South Africa. Within fiscal limitations, equipment and weaponry will once again be procured.
The EFF 2019 election manifesto has 31 sections devoted to among others, corruption, crime, “State capacity”, justice and correctional services, national infrastructure and international relations. It makes no mention of border security (land or maritime) or other currently ordered SANDF commitments.
The ACDP manifesto includes sections on service delivery, small business development and poverty alleviation, education, “access to health”, transport and infrastructure, rural and agricultural development and community safety.