“Dramatic action” needed to prevent SA defence capability decline – Armscor chair

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Phillip Dexter, in his chairman’s report prefacing the latest annual report of government’s defence and security acquisition agency Armscor, acknowledges the “personnel bill” of the national defence force along with “continued budget cuts by National Treasury” puts the entire South African defence sector “at the edge of an abyss”.

The former parliamentarian, who also carries the Wikipedia description of “activist and entrepreneur who held many positions in various organisations”, writes in the 2021/22 annual report that “unless dramatic action is taken, the country [South Africa] could lose what is left of its sovereign capability and the intellectual property (IP) developed over years”.

In the southern African region, according to Dexter, “conflict between insurgents and the Mozambican defence force, lately [currently] assisted by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other African countries, with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) playing a key role, has shown anyone who takes the issue of the defence of the sovereignty of our country lightly, is likely to contribute to weakening our efforts in this regard”.

Mitigation efforts to maintain defence and IP capability, Dexter writes, include engaging with Denel, the SANDF, Minister Pravin Gordhan’s Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and the local defence industry, represented by AMD (SA Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Industries Association). These engagements sought input “on what needs to be done to protect the interests of citizens of the country”.

On the credit side, he points out in the 18 months since the then new board was named, the “dark clouds” did not prevent delivery of the first MMIPV (multi-mission patrol vessel) to the SA Navy (SAN). The other SAN project – a new hydrographic vessel to replace SAS Protea (A324) with ancillary onshore and at sea equipment – is “on target to be finalised”. Dexter notes further Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) “provided much-needed funding to ensure the current capability of the SA Air Force (SAAF) is maintained”.

His chairman’s crystal ball has it the coming year “must see greater success in building partnerships and growing the commercial side of Armscor”. African and global markets are growing and Armscor “must be positioned to take advantage”.

He further sees a capital injection coming thanks to agreements concluded with Saudi Arabia and Turkey.