Review and analysis of defence policy underway as SANDF ‘unsustainable’


The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is becoming progressively more unsustainable in terms of a declining budget, Defence Minister Thandi Modise warns while offering a new strategic direction for the Department of Defence (DoD).

Responding to a parliamentary question posed by the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) Washington Mafanya, she said it is now time for South Africa to decide on the kind of defence force it wants and what it can afford.

Modise said reviving the SANDF requires a comprehensive approach encompassing leadership, funding, training and strategic planning. While the Defence Review 2015 remains largely appropriate, it needs to be reviewed as the review was predicated on a steady improvement in the defence budget, agreed to by Cabinet at the time, but which did not materialise.

“It is within the context of a constrained fiscal environment, that a review and analysis of the National Defence Policy – the SA Defence Review 2015 – will be required by 31 March 2024 to provide a realistic and sustainable future orientated defence value proposition, cognisant of current fiscal realities, that delivers against the constitutional mandate of defence, South Africa’s national interests and Government’s priorities and risk appetite,” Modise’s reply reads in part.

Modise said  initiatives are underway to realign the DoD under “a revised level of defence ambition”. They include development of a future RSA defence and security policy concept that takes into account the emerging security environment and constraints facing the SANDF as well as development of the Chief of the SANDF’s long-term capability development strategic plan and others.

“Work has continued strongly in these areas, focused on the five military priorities that I outlined in my budget speech,” Modise wrote. They are promoting nation building, safeguarding the nation and building internal stability by strengthening institutions of State and growing the economy; securing regional development by creating conditions conducive to regional security and stability as well as increased investment that drives regional growth and development through consumer economies; enhancing cyber resilience through protection of critical digital infrastructure; and enhancing SANDF hard power capability through a small but core major combat capability relevant and ready to meet future conflict challenges.

“I intend to bring in all stakeholders to participate in work sessions, which will lead to engagements with the two Parliamentary committees in the next four months, where we will discuss the draft defence and national security policy concept as well as the future military capstone concept. I trust this process will  to a new long-term capability development strategy,” her response to Mafanya ended.

Responding to a question by Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) representative Russel Cebekhulu, Modise said the national defence force is still capable and gave examples of peacekeeping missions under the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). The SANDF, as per her written reply, “has also conducted joint military exercises and training programmes with international partners to enhance its readiness”.

Admitting there are challenges she maintains “these efforts indicate a willingness to address security concerns and improve SANDF readiness against international terror threats”. Ending with the warning that “continued investment in funding, training and equipment upgrades will be crucial to ensure the SANDF’s ability to protect the Republic effectively”.

Mafanya asked Modise if she intends to resign in light of the failure to revive the SA National Defence Force and make way for new leadership that will understand the SA Defence Review of 2015, but President Cyril Ramaphosa’s defence minister did not respond to this in her written reply.