In introductory remarks to his first medium term budget policy statement (MTBPS), Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana mentioned additional funding for the major components of South Africa’s security apparatus – the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and SA Police Service (SAPS).
This, Godongwana said, was in line with the Constitutional imperative stating all South Africans have a right to be and feel safe.
Minister Thandi Modise’s war chest is boosted by R1.827 billion over and above the R700 million allocated specifically for the Operation Prosper deployment in July to support police when looting and rioting broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) mission to Mozambique (Operation Vikela).
The 2020/21 main defence budget stood at R46.2 billion, but with the additional R1.8 billion and R700 million adjustments, it comes to R48.796 billion.
The single largest allocation is, not unexpectedly, for salaries. R1.313 billion will go to paying SANDF civilian and defence personnel in administration; force employment; landward, air and maritime defence; military health support, Defence Intelligence and the ubiquitous, but ever-present general support.
The additional R1 billion plus for the salary bill still leaves the major item in the defence budget with a shortfall of around R2.7 billion for the current financial year, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais points out.
Godongwana has a further R514.6 million for the men and women in uniform, more particularly those who manage their utilisation, maintain and acquire the equipment they use and see to their health and well-being in terms of accommodation and medical assistance. These funds are United Nations reimbursements for peace support operations, notably MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as well as from the sale of equipment and spares procured through the Special Defence Account (SDA). He did not give a breakdown of specific amounts.
Apart from the shortfall in the salaries allocation, Marais is appreciative of Godongwana’s debut MTBPS and its boost to defence funds.
Just on half the funds from the UN and SDA will see the SA Navy (SAN) with an extra R111 million and R233 million for the SA Air Force (SAAF).
“In the overall financial situation of the Department of Defence (DoD) this is only a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless it is good to see at least some urgently needed money go to services needing it.”
A breakdown of programme allocations sees force employment boosted by R101 million, landward defence by 60 million, air defence by R233.9 million and maritime defence by R111.4 million.
Marais hopes the added funding will go to where it’s most needed – prime mission equipment (PME) maintenance and acquisition.
“Based on the 2021/22 budget and the previous financial year the additional allocation is a step in the right direction. South Africa cannot allow its national defence force to haemorrhage any further when it is the bulwark to protect territorial integrity, lives and livelihoods, among others.
“Hopefully the DoD and SANDF will work hard on cutting costs and prove to National Treasury repurposing and re-prioritising become the focus as opposed to ‘nice-to-have’ expenses,” Marais said.