The first four months of his tenure as South Africa’s most senior soldier saw General Rudzani Maphwanya on an extensive tour of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) services and divisions. With that completed he turned his attention to the country’s defence industry in a familiarisation effort to “discover what it is capable of supplying”.
This is according to the official SANDF mouthpiece SA Soldier which, in its final edition of 2021, reports Maphwanya as saying it is time for the national defence force to rebuild.
He is quoted as telling local defence industry leaders “a competent and combat ready defence force is only as good as the combat readiness of the defence industry” at the Department of Defence (DoD) Logistics Support Formation headquarters in Lyttelton, Centurion, late last year.
“When our defence industry is strong we are capable of saying to the world ‘South Africa is a power to contend with’. It means we take our space in multi-lateral organs. We stand and speak with a loud voice. When you have a dog in the house people don’t get through the gate, but they know if the dog doesn’t have teeth it is as if you do not have a dog,” the publication reports.
Elaborating the SANDF Chief pointed out the symbiotic relationship between the national military and the South African defence industry, also known by the acronym SADI, ensured the dog did have teeth. The success of the SANDF was dependent on an indigenous defence industry.
“I believe in South Africa Inc – we must find a solution together.”
Budget cuts, the publication has him saying, effectively killed SADI. He is further reported as saying while everyone knows the challenges and effort made to overcome them “the reality is South Africa is losing face in the world”.
One way of rectifying this is this year’s Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition at Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof. Due to take place from 21 to 25 September at the Centurion base recognised as the SA Air Force (SAAF) transport hub, Maphwanya sees it “making a statement”.
“We need all the support we can get if we are to succeed and prosecute our mandate. It’s not just about being able to fight, it’s about being able to project our forces successfully,” SA Soldier has him saying.
Turning to the longstanding SANDF problem of arresting a decline in both capabilities and equipment Maphwanya told those present a Defence Review, commissioned in 2012 and updated in 2015, had seen no implementation of recommendations.
“We have to arrest the decline of a decline, but there is hope,” SA Soldier reports him adding “imagine the possibilities we could achieve if we were fully funded?”
“We need to reach the stage where we can have an integrated exercise with the SA Army, SAAF, SA Navy (SAN) and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) to tell the world. I’m optimistic we can.”