Government, most notably The Presidency and Parliament, has made much of cost savings during May’s Presidential inauguration and this week’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). At the same time the national defence force has contributed significantly to the success of both events with zero added financial input.
Thursday’s SONA was said to be costing in the region of R2 million, down substantially on previous years while the Presidential inauguration at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld stadium was also billed as being less costly than previous ones.
“The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is proud to be part of major events such as an inauguration and the annual SONA. They are part and parcel of South Africa and its various ceremonial occasions,” a source in the government defence environment said on condition of anonymity.
The costs involved come from the general operating budget of the SANDF he said. This would, for example, see flying hours in the case of the SA Air Force (SAAF) coming from that portion of the air force budget for both the Presidential inauguration and the SONA.
Similarly other services will carry the costs of events from their budgets. Indications are it is mostly the training budget allocation used for this purpose as, for the National Ceremonial Guard and other units who combine for a battalion strength parade, was the case with the Loftus Versfeld inauguration. The same applies to the artillery units which have the honour of firing the 21 gun salutes at major national events.
He said the involvement of the military in such events also served to put the national defence force into the public eye in “a positive manner” adding it was “part and parcel of a defence force to be able to march properly”.
Involvement in national events has the added value of making “the logistics work” with people and equipment having to be moved to specific areas at specific times, often with space constraints.
“Movement of men and materiel is a major component of any military and in South Africa this happens ahead of big exercises, usually at the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape. Planning for exercise there includes transport and logistics but as there are only so many ways to reach Lohathla by road it becomes an option for those doing the work to ‘cut and paste’ when it comes to route planning. Again, events such as an inauguration and the SONA provide something different. All this adds to the experience available in uniform,” he said.
Another example of logistics in action is the annual Armed Forces Day event. This is held in a different province each year and again provides particularly logistics planners with new challenges to ensure “the right things get to the right places at the right time”.