Defence oversight committees note Mapisa-Nqakula’s affordable defence ambition plan


The man at the helm of Parliament’s defence oversight committees sees the development of a policy position on an affordable level of defence ambition for South Africa as a major plus from Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s budget vote.

Reacting to the R46.268 billion budget the Minister tabled earlier this week, Cyril Xaba, Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) co-chair, said tasking the Secretary for Defence (Gladys Kudjoe) was “perhaps the most important” part of the Mapisa-Nqakula address to the National Assembly.

“The JSCD and PCDMV have, in the Sixth Parliament, focused extensively on these matters and will continue to oversee the Minister on these crucial undertakings. Parliament will strive to contribute the debate around defence and help answer the Minister’s question: ‘What kind of national defence force should South Africa have and what can it afford?’

“The way forward requires urgency in execution from the Minister and the Department of Defence (DoD) as well as parliamentary oversight equal to the task,” Xaba told defenceWeb.

He is of the opinion the defence budget vote “should be welcomed both for its positive view on the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contribution to the country and its realistic outlook on challenges facing the organisation”. As with other defence watchers Xaba is concerned about ongoing reductions in the defence budget.

“This is crucial as it will negatively affect SANDF operational capabilities if not addressed urgently.”

Xaba appreciates the five key undertakings Mapisa-Nqakula made in her budget vote address.

“They include implementation of cost saving measures on personnel expenditure, developing a force design cognisant of South Africa’s strategic circumstances, focusing on force rejuvenation and, in collaboration with Armscor, developing a pragmatic recommendation for modernising the SANDF,” he said.

In her  address, Mapisa-Nqakula said she several steps towards creating a stable defence force have been taken. “I issued a directive to the DoD in which specific measures to effect cost savings in the personnel budget over time must be implemented.

“Secondly, I requested the Secretary for Defence to develop a departmental policy position on an affordable level of defence ambition cognisant of funding challenges and the emerging real and tangible threats to the national security of South Africa. I also requested we have insight to the defence systems and capabilities to be decommissioned and the risk estimate attached in the interests of achieving defence efficiency. It is my intention to approach and engage Cabinet and the Parliamentary oversight committees with the outcome of this work.

“Thirdly I requested the Chief of the national defence force to finalise the blue print force design cognisant of strategic circumstances. Additionally I indicated the command and staff structure of the national defence force has to change if we are to ensure improved efficiency and effectiveness in future. To this end, we should focus on implementation as soon as practically possible,” the minister said.

She also requested  Armscor chief executive Solomzi Mbada to collaborate with CSANDF and the Secretary for Defence in developing “a pragmatic recommendation on how to modernise the SANDF under current fiscal and industry constraints”.