Manifesto analysis: Assessing political parties’ stance on defence and national security


defenceWeb recently took time to look at the MK Party manifesto in terms of defence and security. I was wondering how the rest of the parties stacked up.

I asked an AI Chat bot to generate a party manifesto position on defence:

SA Party 2024 Defence Manifesto

The South Africa 2024 party believes in maintaining a strong and well-equipped defence force to protect the country and its citizens. Our manifesto position on defence includes:

  1. Investing in modernizing and upgrading the capabilities of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to ensure that it remains effective and efficient in its duties.
  2. Ensuring adequate funding for the SANDF to address critical operational requirements and to enhance its capacity to respond to emerging security threats.
  3. Enhancing collaboration with regional and international partners to strengthen regional security cooperation and promote peace and stability in Africa.
  4. Improving the welfare and well-being of military personnel through better living conditions, healthcare, and support services.
  5. Strengthening defence industry and technology capabilities to support local defence manufacturing and innovation.

The AI Chat bot did not pick up the additional point of conscription aligned to job creation that has been raised by several parties. This needs to be added to the SA 2024 Party’s position.

Overall, the fictional South Africa 2024 party is committed to ensuring that the country’s defence capabilities are robust and ready to defend against any threats to national security.

So how do parties weigh up to AI Chat bot?

We can see why defence does not have much support in the current government environment. The two major parties do not see defence as a major issue for the country. The African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) seem to think – according to their manifestos – that the status quo for the country’s defence capability is fine.

All parties imply that regional and international cooperation is needed to promote peace and stability in Africa.

The Multi-Party Charter, excluding the DA, sees a significant role for defence in ensuring sovereignty. There would be calls for increased funding if this grouping is part of the next government.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and MK Party have a very similar stance, with strong support for a defence capability. The EFF has the most comprehensive defence plan.

An interesting element is the addition of conscription by parties that are grouped to the far left. It does make sense for nationalized job creation.

Here is a short overview of defence in each party manifesto:

African National Congress (ANC)

The only reference to the defence environment in the ANC Manifesto document is to expand and institutionalise the National Youth Service in partnership with the SANDF. Targeted intake is 100 000 young men and women.

I asked the AI Chat bot to summarise the general ANC position on defence:

  • Prioritise maintaining a strong defence force. Emphasised the need for a well-equipped and trained defence force to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Committed to modernising the military and investing in advanced technology for defence capabilities.
  • Emphasises international peacekeeping missions to promote regional stability.
  • Promised to strengthen partnerships with neighboring countries and regional organisations to enhance security cooperation.

Democratic Alliance (DA)

The 53-page DA manifesto does not mention defence or the SANDF. Can we accept that the status quo is satisfactory for the DA? The party’s Shadow Defence Minster has been very vocal about defence and appears dissatisfied with the status quo, but nothing made its way into the DA’s manifesto.

I asked AI Chat bot to summarize the general DA position on defence:

  • Advocate for a defence strategy focused on safeguarding South Africa’s borders, combating crime, and responding to national emergencies.
  • Highlighted the importance of accountability and transparency in defence spending.
  • Proposed reforms to streamline the defence sector and improve efficiency in resource allocation.
  • Aims to enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of the military through training and investment in technology.
  • Supports regional cooperation and participation in peacekeeping operations.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)

The EFF has a comprehensive defence force proposal in its manifest. A whole chapter is allocated to defence. Here is a summary:

  • Called for an increase in defence spending and will carry out a comprehensive modernisation programme for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to ensure it remains agile and responsive to contemporary security challenges.
  • Mandate that each person undergoes compulsory military training for a year or six months after matriculation, offering life skills and discipline.
  • The EFF government will bail out Denel and Armscor and will support a strong and sustainable defence industry in South Africa that promotes local defence firms and fosters innovation.
  • Criticises involvement in international conflicts. Advocates for closer cooperation with neighbouring countries to address common security challenges.

Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

The IFP recognises the importance of defence. The IFP believes that immediate and radical reform is required to strengthen the justice system, security, military, and intelligence services. It would like to:

  • Prioritise the defence budget to meet the international norm of 2% of GDP, invest in Defence Force recruitment drives, and reengineer and professionalise the SANDF’s institutional structure.
  • Increase SANDF resources and equipment, improve training, establish effective intelligence gathering, combat corruption and criminal activity, and improve the welfare of military veterans.
  • Ensure that the SANDF is skilled and prepared for traditional, biological, cyber or electronic warfare.
  • Immediately deploy the SANDF to ports of entry and borders and fortify our borders through the construction of border walls, to strengthen border control and ensure the integrity of our borders.
  • Deploy the SANDF to communities where social ills, crime and gangsterism are rife.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+)

The FF+ sees defence as one the three core functions of government, with the defence force protecting citizens against external threats.

The FF+ has a dedicated element addressing Rebuild the Defence Force.

Supports measures to enhance the autonomy and self-reliance of the South African military. Advocates for increased defence spending (within limitations) to address perceived gaps in military readiness.

The effectiveness of a defence force is determined by its equipment and its people. The SANDF has deteriorated significantly as a result of constant financial shortfalls and neglect in the form of poor maintenance. An even bigger problem is the lack of expertise and discipline in the SANDF. The take away is:

  • Establish a competent and disciplined defence force.
  • Procure equipment and weaponry within fiscal limitations.

Note: State-owned enterprises should be privatised. This impacts Denel.

The FF+ advocates for an unambiguous foreign relations framework to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

It emphasises the importance of border control and immigration management in safeguarding national interests and to combat illegal immigration and smuggling.

United Democratic Movement (UDM)

The UDM provides major focus on defence.

Regarding defence, it is unlikely that we will see conventional wars that would require military action, but we should use our resources to the fullest and most importantly, in terms of the mandate of the South African National Defence Force, ensure the territorial integrity of this country, during peaceful times too. The defence force has a greater role to play during disaster relief. The UDM would like to:

  • Consider having a small to medium sized professional Defence Force with conventional and unconventional fighting capabilities, with a highly sophisticated technology equipment and strategic reach for peace capacity building missions anywhere in the continent.
  • Enhance coordination between the ministries of justice, police, correctional services, defence and national intelligence.
  • Depoliticise all members of the SANDF.
  • Reorganise the recruitment processes of the police, defence and intelligence services. The aim of such a programme will be to allow communities to participate in keeping their environment safe and secure. Individuals who are interested in a career in law enforcement will be trained and assigned to serve their communities, thus allowing for the monitoring of crime, the gathering of intelligence and bringing of law and order.
  • Have military bases and personnel across the country train and be equipped to assist their civil counterparts in natural disaster relief efforts.
  • Revitalise training skills on counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare for the SANDF to be responsive in insurgency settings.
  • Design and develop well thought out national strategies, a blueprint for an Entry and Exit Master Plan in Bilateral Peace Building Capacity Missions, with clearly defined deliverable milestones and Mission Strategic Outcomes (Defence Diplomacy).

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)

The ACDP’s manifesto supports a defence capability. It would like to:

Strengthen the South African National Defence Force to protect our borders, conduct humanitarian and peace missions, and when called upon, to assist the police in maintaining law and order.

Congress of the People (COPE)

COPE has a 209 page manifesto with no comment on defence or the SANDF.

African Transformation Movement (ATM)

ATM’s manifesto has no mention of defence or the SANDF.

Good Party (Good)

The Good Party does not mention defence or the SANDF.

Action SA

With regard to defence, Action SA says it will establish a well-equipped, well-resourced, and professional SANDF that is ready to respond to any threat to South Africa’s security.

With regard to collaboration to improve border security, ActionSA will enhance collaboration efforts between the SA Police Service, SANDF, and the Border Management Authority to ensure our borders are monitored effectively.

Patriotic Alliance (PA)

The Patriotic Alliance has a short and sweet manifesto, but defence still features strongly.

The PA will introduce mandatory military or public service for unemployed youth to instil discipline and skills, while also assisting in border security and deportation efforts.

SA involvement in peacekeeping must increase. The PA wants a well-trained, energetic and youthful military.

Interestingly, the PA links the military to growing the continental economy, including SA. A disciplined military force will secure regional sovereignty and reduce Africa’s dependence on outside influence. The positive dividend from military service should be able to more than fund its cost.

MK Party

With an understanding of the party the name and origins, you would expect some focus on defence.

The party maintains there is a decline in investment in military equipment, recruitment and training of military personnel and very limited career progression in the army. The capacity of South Africa to conduct military research, technology research and equipment manufacturing has been destroyed.

The military service provides an opportunity to fight against youth unemployment, instil patriotism and promote civic values and national culture. Every young person reaching the age of 18 should serve a year of military service to cultivate discipline and patriotism among the youth.

The MK Party wants a review of the integration process that led to the formation of the SA National Defence Force.

It wants to:

Deliberately increase investment in new military equipment and increase the maintenance budget on existing equipment.

Recapitalise Denel and Armscor and drive state-to-state military co-operation with BRICS (Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa) countries to leapfrog our technological and local manufacturing capacity.

Encourage the commercialisation of some military technologies to resolve the challenges of meeting the basic needs of the people.

These and other issues were under the spotlight on 15 May at the inaugural AMD National Safety and Security Town Hall event, held at Workshop 17 in Sandton. Political parties discussed their positions on defence and security after a keynote discussion on the State of Security in South Africa. Click here to view the recording of the event.

 Written by James Kerr, Orion Consulting CC, which provides Market Entry Strategy and Bid & Proposal services to the Aerospace & Defence related industry and assists international SME mission system product suppliers to gain traction in South Africa.