PCDMV calls for urgency on new SANDF strategic direction

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The budgetary review and recommendations report (BRRR) of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) has nine recommendations for improving the well-being of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise’s SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Additionally, the PCDMV report has six recommendations for Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana as government’s holder of the purse strings.

The PCDMV, one of two Parliamentary oversight committees tasked with defence, opens its recommendations positively – with a rider.

“The Committee notes with anticipation the current development of the future strategic direction (FSD) that will determine a new level of defence ambition that the country can afford and maintain,” the report notes adding, “the Minister must prioritise this policy development and ensure that it meets the deadline set for the end of the 2023/24 financial year”.

Also on the FSD, the PCDMV wants “engagement” in the first quarter of 2024 between itself, Modise’s Ministry and the Defence Secretariat, headed by Thobekile Gamede since the departure of Gladys Kudjoe last December. On the agenda will be progress on the FSD and PCDMV input for use when drafting the FSD.

Project Thusano is one of a number of instances where irregular expenditure has taken place and the BRRR wants Modise to provide feedback on an earlier indication she “wished to undertaken a feasibility study” on the Cuban project. “The Minister should provide feedback to the committee on the status of this study and what steps will be taken to prevent further irregular expenditure prior to the project coming to a close in December 2024”. Written response should be in Parliament by 31 January 2024, according to the BRRR.

On implementation of maintenance contracts for various SA Air Force (SAAF) types, the PCDMV recommends the airborne service up its flying hour allocation for the 2023/24 financial year to 15 000. This is three thousand more than planned for in the current financial year and comes with an injunction to utilise financial discipline in ensuring “all available funds are pushed into achieving this target”.

Aircrew availability, currency and vacancies are another area the PCDMV wants updated information on. This includes the percentage of pilots maintaining current status as well as “mitigation strategies” to ensure flight currency is maintained.

The SA Navy (SAN) should, via the Department of Defence (DoD), “drastically improve” on the number of sea hours set for 2023/24. This is in the wake of the maritime service logging 2 770 sea hours against a target of eight thousand for the previous reporting period. The PCDMV accepts it takes time to make ships seaworthy and urges Vice Admiral Monde Lobese and his naval command to “prioritise sea hours in the remainder of 2023/24 and in 2024/25 and direct funding towards this priority”.

Bearing in mind the importance of maritime patrolling, the PCDMV wants the DoD to “ensure” it achieves its maritime patrol target and “where the SAN is not able, the SAAF should patrol coastal waters”.

Additionally, the PCDMV wants Minister Modise to “constitute” the Reserve Force Council (RFC).

On National Treasury (NT) and its miserly treatment of the SANDF, the PCDMV BRRR “wishes to impress” Minister Godongwana of the need to continue funding, among others, “border safeguarding technology and border patrol vehicles, the midlife upgrades of the SAN frigates and submarines and the upgrading of the SAAF airlift capability”. These funding upgrades should, the PCDMV notes, go further than the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period so as not to “undo” progress made through current allocations and ensure operational stability of prime mission equipment (PME).