Yet another indicator, if needed, that defence is the poor relation in the SA government “family” came with not a single mention of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) or the Department of Defence (DoD) by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his 2020 budget speech to the National Assembly this week.
As far as the actual numbers are concerned it’s much the same with a minimal increase in the budget which Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her top level team have to spread among four services.
According to the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) the defence budget for the 2020/21 financial year is R52.438 billion – up marginally in monetary terms from the R50.5 billion allocated it by National Treasury in the previous financial year.
And there is no financial relief in the next two financial years. For 2021/22 National Treasury will grant defence less than it has for the current financial year. The allocation, as per the ENEs, is R50.85 billion – a reduction of over R1.5 billion. It does, however, go up slightly in the 2022/23 financial year to R52.9 billion.
The ENE expenditure analysis points out 62% of the DoD total budget of R156.3 billion over the medium term is allocated to compensation of employees. “For the department to meet its ordered commitments and targets for military operations, missions and exercises, its number of personnel is expected to remain at an average of 75 000 over the medium term”.
The ENE goes on to state that efforts to “remain within the expenditure ceiling for compensation of employees over this period” will see the DoD review composition of personnel and military capabilities “to strike the most appropriate balance between the regular force, reserve force and civilian component to ensure it can contain costs while executing ordered commitments and priority missions effectively”.
On the issue of a sustainable national defence force, as envisaged in the Defence Review 2015 and the constrained fiscal environment South Africa finds itself it, the ENE lists three measures it sees contributing. These are using internal personnel for basic maintenance and repairs; enhancing revenue by leasing and selling defence assets and maximising reimbursements from the UN as part of South Africa’s peace support operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In the medium term these measures are expected to see a decrease of R209 million on maintenance and repairs, income of R3 billion from sale and leasing of redundant assets and military equipment and a R1.9 billion reimbursement from the UN. These funds will go to sustain capabilities in the landward, air and maritime defence programmes.
While the number of soldiers deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona remains at 15 companies, technological help is on the way.
“To ensure the integrity of the country’s borders and enhance the capacity of landward sub-units through acquisition of military equipment and technology, an additional R225 million over the medium term expenditure framework period has been allocated in the force employment programme. This equipment and technology is expected to serve as a force multiplier to enable soldiers to increase the range of the borderline under protection,” according to the ENE.