As an old soldier Bantu Holomisa knows full well the value and importance of morale in the military and he made a point of making the defence and military veterans minister aware of it when responding to her budget vote address.
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader, a retired two-star general, advised Minister Thandi Modise to “fight for a proper budget” for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). This would assist in ending complaints about insufficient equipment and other – lesser – issues such as uniforms and soldiers transported to violent operations in buses which does not boost morale.
Holomisa told Modise his party supported the R49.09 billion defence budget adding the national defence force today found itself operating in a different space.
“The SANDF mandate or focus, from protecting South Africa from foreign aggression, has shifted,” he said, giving the recent example of the military reaction to flood damage in KwaZulu-Natal and the utilisation of SANDF elements during the various lockdown levels of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some SANDF interactions with the public during those times, showed clearly our servicemen and women are not properly trained to deal with civilians nor would they be able to deal with the public should there be a civil uprising.
“The issue of proper equipment in such situations is a concern,” he said, asking if it was necessary to deploy tanks in built-up areas during the July 2021 mayhem. Answering himself, he said it would be better if purpose-built vehicles were available.
Holomisa was critical of what he termed “tardiness” in deploying the SANDF in some situations, saying post the KwaZulu-Natal floods it took far too long to see activity.
“The seeming lack of SANDF readiness creates questions and anxiety among the citizenry,” he said.
He used the defence budget vote response opportunity to take aim at government’s intelligence structures saying “State intelligence has lost the initiative” and “matters are further muddled” because “State security machinery is heavily involved in the politics of the ruling party”.
He told Modise, not only as defence and military veterans minister but also a member of the Cabinet’s justice, peace and security cluster: “South Africa’s intelligence bodies are failing to identify the saboteurs of Eskom and railways, as well as illegal mining which affects investment potential”.
Posing yet another question he asked if South Africa, particularly its defence and security agencies, have officers with enough training and experience to turn the situation around?
“Yes,” he answered himself, explaining: “South Africa signed several bilateral agreements since 1994 where other countries agree to assist with training of our conventional warfare forces.
“They could be approached to help us – efficiently and professionally – handle this new phenomenon of crises on home soil.”