No real change in defence budget


Miserly is probably the most apt word to describe the just over R2 billion increase Finance Minister Tito Mboweni “gifted” the defence budget when he presented the medium term budget policy statement in the National Assembly yesterday (Wednesday, 28 October).

In government bureaucrat speak the adjusted budget summary for Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to apply in defence of South Africa, on foreign policy initiatives and to provide for the health and well-being of military veterans, among others,  is increased by R2.017 billion to a total of R54.201 billion. The increase takes into account a decrease of R255 million as part of the adjustments appropriation.

Putting into practice the vote purpose of “defending and protecting the Republic of South Africa, its territorial integrity and its people, in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force” sees the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) expend funding on force employment (R4.6 billion), landward defence (R16.6 billion), air defence (R7.5 billion), maritime defence (R4.9 billion), military health support (R6.1 billion), defence intelligence (R1.1 billion), general support (R7.7 billion) with administration costing R5.4 billion.

Eight Department of Defence (DoD) programmes had their spend, specifically on employee compensation reduced by the Finance Minister as part of his attempts to cut government spending.

This will see the DoD administration programme cut by R123.2 million; force employment by R163.8 million, landward defence by R848.4 million, air defence by R219.2 million, maritime defence by R143.7 million, military health support by R222.2 million, defence intelligence by R26.4 million and general support by R179.8 million with R138.9 coming from employee compensation and R40.9 million from transfers and subsidies to public corporations. This includes Armscor and the Castle of Good Hope.

The defence vote component of Mboweni’s medium term budget policy statement includes a number of shifts and virements where funding is or will be moved from one to another programme. This sees, as one example over R600 million taken from the Special Defence Account and moved to employee compensation, specifically to cover salaries for extended deployment. While not specified it is in all probability for Operation Notlela, the SANDF contribution to the national state of disaster to put the brakes on the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.

Another shift of allocated funds sees just on R146 million moved to maintenance and repair of vehicles under the Operation Thusano tasking involving Cuban military mechanics and technicians.

Similarly, Defence Legal Services Division had just on R23 million taken from its allocation to help pay for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force regional logistics depot in Botswana.

Regarding self‐financing expenditure, revenue of R809.8 million has been generated from reimbursements from the United Nations for South Africa’s contribution to peace support operations, and the sale of equipment and spares procured through the special defence account. This will be returned to the vote from the National Revenue Fund to cover operational costs related to the department’s participation in the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as critical elements of the 2015 South African Defence Review.

Of this amount, R170 million is allocated to the Force Employment programme, R60.7 million to the Landward Defence programme, R392.3 million to the Air Defence rogramme, and R186.9 million to the Maritime Defence programme.