The onerous task of providing proper oversight on this year’s Department of Defence (DoD) annual performance plan looks set to be a litmus test for the sixth Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence ahead of a National Assembly debate.
In her introduction to the 250 plus page document, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula makes the point that the current medium term expenditure framework will see “defence continue to pursue a rebalancing of current military capabilities towards a future force with a wide range of utility, able to perform core mandated functions while providing value to South Africa as a developmental state”.
She also notes her department will continue implementation of national defence policy – “articulated trough the SA Defence Review 2015” – with a primary focus on arresting the decline of the (DoD). This is the same review commissioned by former Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and completed in 2012 with revisions to update.
Mapisa-Nqakula adds arresting the decline will not be achieved in the present financial reporting term “within the confines of current fiscal constraints and the resulting decline in the defence budget allocation”.
Ominously she also notes “rebalancing the defence force”, milestone two of the Defence Review set down for the five year period until 2025, “may only be realised with possible further delays amid resource considerations”.
And there is an even further negative for Cyril Xaba and his committee in having to recommend on what the Minister calls “the national level of ambition” for the DoD. She envisages this being reconsidered “commensurate with the available capabilities of Defence to allow for adequately resourced implementation of national policy directives”.
On the positive side, Mapisa-Nqakula maintains a reduced budget will not prevent the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) providing support to ensure all people in South Africa “are and feel safe while creating a better South Africa and contributing to a better and safer Africa in a better world”.
This includes ongoing border safeguarding operations, support to other government departments, combatting corruption and fraud and “pursuing defence diplomacy”.
The DoD will also continue its support of government’s nine-point economic plan. This will be done by contributing to revitalisation of the agriculture and agro-processing value chain; effective implementation of the Industrial Action Plan; encouraging private sector investment; unlocking the potential of small, medium and micro enterprises; contributing to reform and boosting the role of State-owned companies; Information, Communication and Technology infrastructure; water, sanitation and transport infrastructure and pursuing Operation Phakisa aimed at growing the ocean economy and other sectors.
The annual performance plan has been handed to the Portfolio Committee but not yet tabled as this has “to be announced by the 6th Administration”.