SANDF chief on the state of South Africa’s defence capabilities

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General Rudzani Maphwanya, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, penned an upbeat introduction for the 2022/23 Department of Defence (DoD) annual report pointing out, among others, the national defence force has “determined” its state and capabilities “for the first time since the advent of democracy”.

He ends his 600 plus word introduction to the over 300-page report by informing readers the SANDF decided to “ascertain the true status of our [South Africa’s] accumulative defence capabilities”. This started with “an assessment of the state of individual services and divisions across all defence capability programmes” with the “insight gained”, “successfully rolled up” to determine “the whole state of the SANDF and its capabilities”. Maphwanya maintains this paves the way for the national defence force to “embark on a Journey to Greatness”.

The first topic he gives attention to in his introduction is border protection, writing it is an area of support to “the people of South Africa”. This is done by way of 15 sub-units (companies from different SA Army formations) deployed along the land borders and “vessels on the maritime borders, with the SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Navy (SAN) ensuring safe air and maritime spaces”.

The border protection deployment – Operation Corona – sees soldiers curb illegal migration; cross-border trade; weapons, livestock and vehicle theft as well as “the illicit movement of contraband goods”, among others. He notes further “irrespective of the support provided, the SANDF needs to maximise the potential of the 15 sub-units by creating positive working conditions and environments for our men and women in uniform” expressing hope for efforts to be made to refurbish Operation Corona infrastructure “to create humane conditions for our soldiers”.

Maphwanya writes the “operational prowess” of the SANDF was shown “beyond a shadow of doubt in the land, sea and air domains, all covered by effective medical support”.

“In pursuance of government’s quest for peace, security and stability in the region and on the continent, the SANDF continued to play a pivotal role participating in the United Nations (UN) peace support operation in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as the SADC (Southern African Development Community) mission in Mozambique, where South African military personnel are deployed as part of the SADC force to combat acts of terrorism and violent extremists in Cabo Delgado province” he wrote of regional and continental SANDF utilisation.

Operation Prosper, which tasks the SANDF to provide assistance and support to government departments, agencies and entities, earns more than a passing mention from Maphwanya.

“The SANDF rendered safety and security support in co-operation with the SA Police Service (SAPS) in the prevention of crime and for the maintenance and preservation of law and order by deploying soldiers to deter possible threats to critical infrastructure (most notably Eskom) and by deploying members and equipment in support of the [Cabinet] Security Cluster response to the threat of a national shutdown on 20 March 2023.

“Support was also rendered during the opening of Parliament (SONA 2023) in the Western Cape Province. Military support was rendered to other government departments for the preservation of life, health and property through disaster relief and humanitarian operations.

“In this regard, personnel and equipment were deployed to flood affected areas in KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Eastern Cape provinces. SANDF members were put on standby throughout the rest of the country to rapidly respond to unforeseen and foreseen disasters. Further support was rendered to the Department of Health by deploying medical personnel to the Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, North West Province, during industrial action by several public service unions.”

The SANDF Chief makes specific mention of the SA Army and its flood relief contributions in two provinces – KwaZulu-Natal and North West. Soldiers and other musterings, including engineers, supported the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and other departments. The contributions “manifested” in numerous humanitarian assistance efforts under the Operation Chariot tasking.

In conjunction with DPWI the SANDF, specifically the SA Army Engineer Formation, gave “priority attention” to the Welisizwe Rural Bridges programme during the year under review which remains “an important SANDF objective”.