SecDef optimistic on future of local defence industry


While accepting South Africa’s current – and foreseeable – economic situation as well as other factors, including the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, South African Secretary for Defence Gladys Kudjoe remains optimistic as regards a brighter future for the local defence industry.

The Defence Industry Strategy (DIS), together with the Implementation Master Plan (IMP) and Defence Sector Charter (DSC), she tells readers of the latest AMD (SA Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association) defence industry guide, provides a policy framework for ensuring a vibrant defence industry capable of meeting SA National Defence Force (SANDF) requirements.

“The Defence Industry Strategy document has formulated a realistic option to secure, stabilise and sustain the (defence) sector under the reality of prevailing economic conditions.

“Given the multiple pressing socio-economic challenges which rely on an over-stretched national budget, government has to adopt practical measures in support of the defence industry. In doing so it ensures strategic and sovereign capabilities are not lost and distressed defence industry companies are salvaged as a matter of urgency, while retaining much-needed jobs and skills”.

As examples of Department of Defence (DoD) support to the local defence industry Kudjoe cites seven projects, either completed or underway.

They are Biro for three new inshore patrol vessels (officially multi-mission inshore patrol vessels [MMIPVs]); Hotel for a new hydrographic survey vessel; Kamogelo for new 40mm grenade launchers; Teamster for new field kitchens; Swatch for new field accommodation to support deployed forces; Blesbok for new water purification systems; and Bandsman for new SA Air Force (SAAF) fire trucks.

The importance of the defence sector to and in the overall South African economy is, according to Kudjoe, highlighted as one “that needs to be grown and developed,” evidenced by it named as one of the top ten economic sectors in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s public/private growth initiative.

Over and above the Defence Industry Strategy, Implementation Master Plan, and Defence Sector Charter, Kudjoe sees the Aerospace and Defence Masterplan (ADM) as “a related support project” for the South African defence industry (SADI). According to her, the ADM has developed “a number” of goals and plans of action to stabilise and develop SADI. These range from doubling exports to improving marketing efforts – including at government level – to positioning South Africa as a regional centre of excellence for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and supplier of choice for commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and armoured vehicles.

Other ADM plans include acquiring small arms and ammunition locally, implementing catalytic space programmes, enhancing funding and finance support mechanisms, commercialising local intellectual property (IP) and developing a South African advanced research projects agency.