Cash-strapped South Africa is not using already stretched financial resources responsibly by committing to a just on R1 billion expenditure for soldiers to be “employed” and, at some stage deployed in a foreign country, the Democratic Alliance (DA) believes.
Kobus Marais, the official opposition’s shadow defence and military veterans minister, will ask questions about the use of South African taxpayers’ money and other issues after President Cyril Ramaphosa informed Parliament a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contingent of just on 1 500 will be dispatched to Mozambique.
As a starter, Marais maintains the Presidential approval was received by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and National Council of Provinces chair Amos Masondo days after South African soldiers left for Mozambique.
“There are serious concerns regarding the employment, especially its cost. In his letter to Parliament, the President indicated the deployment is expected to cost a staggering R984 368 057. There is no indication where the money will come from and the costs certainly cannot be carried by the South African taxpayer,” he said adding the multi-national force destined for Mozambique is a Southern African Development Community (SADC) one.
“The almost R1 billion price tag should be covered by the regional bloc. The notion that the thinly stretched South African taxpayer will foot the bill for this employment is grossly unjustifiable.”
The cost given by Ramaphosa is probably for salaries and other payments, as was the case with the Operation Notlela COVID-19 deployment in 2020.
Marais is also not happy with the duration of the South African military employment in Mozambique.
“The Presidential letter indicates it is for three months and it is going to take significantly longer than three months to defeat the Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique,” he said with the rider that utilisation of South African military elements can be extended with Presidential approval and again asking, if it is, who will foot the bill.
Other questions he has around the Mozambique employment/deployment concern the use of assets such as the Rooivalk combat support helicopter, of which the SA Air Force’s 16 Squadron has 11, and SA Navy (SAN) platforms. “Will a frigate or frigates be despatched to the seas off northern Mozambique for maritime patrol and protection work as well as to deploy shipborne forces? Is consideration being given to tasking a Heroine Class Type 209 submarine?” he asks.
His concerns have the major over-riding concern of the Mozambique involvement not being a repeat of the Battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic in March 2013. Poor logistics and support planning then saw 15 South African soldiers killed.
“We do not want a repeat of that,” Marais said adding he would push for answers from the minister responsible (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) and Ramaphosa as Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF and South African president.