Parliamentary oversight visit to DLS not encouraging for Hoefyster

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Probably the most poignant comments to date on what is increasingly looking like a dead duck – Project Hoefyster – include “a sad sight”, “about 15 partially completed Badgers”, “unused components stored for about five years” and “lost technological skills”.

They were made by Kobus Marais, the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans, following a recent portfolio committee oversight visit to Gauteng. Armscor, including Gerotek, Protechnik, Hazmat, Flamengro and Ergotech; Denel; the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and the Special Forces School north of Pretoria were all stops on the parliamentary delegation’s itinerary.

There were seven parliamentarians from three political parties serving on the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on the oversight visit that was accompanied by four officials. All were told before entering the Denel Land Systems (DLS) facility on the Denel Lyttelton campus “no photographs allowed”, an instruction given as regards what is termed the “confidential nature” of the long-running project to supply a new infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to the SA Army.

After seeing the current – sorry – state of the project Marais, in a personal report to the PCDMV, offered his solution, which involves manufacturing sufficient Badgers to equip a mechanised battalion and upgrading the long-serving Ratel to meet other Infantry Formation – and other services’ – needs. He points out there are South African defence industry (SADI) companies with “proven records” in extending Ratel life using modern technology and equipment, giving Rwanda as an example. The South African designed and manufactured wheeled fighting vehicle was the first of its type in the world when it was introduced in 1976. Upgraded ones, according to Marais, are successfully utilised by the thousand strong Rwandan contingent in Mozambique assisting government forces in ridding particularly Cabo Delgado of ASWJ (Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah) insurgents.

The PCDMV believes there is “a disjuncture” between Denel as the manufacturer and Armscor as project manager for Hoefyster which “impacts” on its “prospects” and is reportedly planning to recommend “urgent engagements” between the two with the SANDF – as end user – also present.