The lack of funding making forward planning the proverbial nightmare for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has not deterred the country’s top soldier.
In his introduction to the latest Department of Defence (DoD) annual report, General Solly Shoke notes the national defence force “continued” to fulfil one of its Constitutional mandates in that all South Africans are and feel safe.
One area where this happens is border protection, where there are currently 15 companies deployed on Operation Corona.
“Much more needs to be done to mitigate the porousness of our borders and this, given adequate resources, will require an increase of soldiers in the borderline and the use of force multipliers that will enable a real time picture of our borders. To this effect, the SANDF has drafted and completed Border Safeguarding and Sensor Strategies whose implementation plan, if appropriately funded, will considerably mitigate the porousness of the borderline,” he wrote in the report.
The SANDF is believed to be using radars and unmanned aerial vehicles to improve its border safeguarding activities.
Shoke also makes mention of “inadequate funding” affecting SANDF critical capabilities. “A number of these may have to be disposed of, as they remain unfunded,” he writes without further detail.
Another indicator of how reduced funding is affecting the SANDF comes in his statement that “the risks defined and listed in the Departmental Risk Register point to the constrained and declining ability of the SANDF to execute ordered operational commitments. This is due to the Defence Force becoming predominantly budget driven rather than being constitutionally mandate driven”.
On the positive side of the ledger, Shoke writes that “despite resource constraints and in pursuance of ordered defence commitments, the Defence Force continued to play an essential role in the fulfilment of its Constitutional duties and the advancement of our foreign policy objectives by participating in the UN/AU Peace Support Operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the conduct of long range maritime patrols to the Mozambican Channel in counter piracy operations to ensure a safe and secured Southern African Development Community maritime environment”.
In her foreword to the report Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula notes the DoD “has been forced to continuously adjust its plans downwards in response to the declining budget. We are forced to adopt a short-term view with an increasingly constrained value proposition to South Africa and its people. Due to the severity of budget cuts we have become a funding driven instead of a mandate driven force.
“Defence can only perform to the extent it is resourced and funded” she tells report readers.
“The significant reduction in the defence allocation has resulted in an ever-decreasing ability to execute ordered defence commitments. The rate of decline has accelerated beyond our ability to control and absorb these ongoing reductions. It is time that we need to discuss, as a country, the type of a defence force we need should the decrease in our budget continue beyond where we are now,” is her summation of the current state of defence funding.