Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has warned that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is underfunded and is being outpaced by defence budgets in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
She made the comments ahead of her Defence and Military Veterans Department Budget Vote for the 2019/20 period in Cape Town this morning.
The Department of Defence has a budget of R50.5 billion, which is up slightly from the 2018/19 budget of R47.9 billion, but when inflation is taken into account, the budget has shrunk. R48.9 billion was allocated in the 2017/18 financial year.
The Minister said that over the last few years the Department of Defence has been forced to continuously adjust its plans downwards in response to the declining budget. “The Defence Force is becoming progressively more unsustainable in terms of declining defence allocations. We have now reached the point where the Republic must decide on the kind of Defence Force it wants and what it can afford,” she said. “We need a frank discussion very soon as we risk the irreversible damage to the defence force as a whole.”
“I want to re-emphasize the resource allocation challenges faced by the Defence Force. A comparative analysis of our SADC partners indicates how under-funded the SANDF is. Regional defence budgets are increasing whilst our defence budget is declining,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
“Strategically, we are now becoming forced to transition from being mandate driven to being funding driven.”
The Minister also gave an overview of the security threats and challenges facing South Africa, including the porousness of the borders and the growing threat of terrorism and fundamentalism by extremist groups “that is looming large and is a clear danger on the Continent. South Africa is not immune to this threat.”
Mapisa-Nqakula added that organised and violent crime threaten and challenge the sovereignty, integrity and authority of the State. “This cannot be allowed to persist. South Africa seeks to build safer communities, fight corruption and promote integrity through inter alia protecting the country’s borders. Today, South Africa remains a significant contributor to peace keeping operations on the Continent and we continue to have a significant presence in the DRC through MONUSCO and the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).”
The South African National Defence Force continiues to conduct search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian operations across the home-front and in neighbouring countries when called upon. “Of particular note has been our recent response to the regional disaster caused by cyclone Idai as far afield as Mozambique and Malawi. Air assets and medical staff of the South African National Defence Force were deployed in a Disaster Relief Operation under Operation Chariot.
“The Commander-in-Chief has ordered the SANDF to deploy in cooperation with the SAPS in the Western Cape Province to combat crime and stabilise the security situation through intelligence-led operations. The ongoing intelligence assessment will determine the right time for the withdrawal of the SANDF. Our Department will continue to support the broader economic and developmental initiatives of the 6th Administration,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Other successes recorded by the SANDF include the intervention at the Provincial Hospital in Mahikeng in the North West Province and the rendering of essential services through the deployment of health professionals; the deployment to contain the raw sewerage spills into the Vaal River System through repairs of the sewage infrastructure in the Vaal River Project; the deployment of engineers to assist the Ditsobotla Municipality in the North-West with regards to sewage system failure; and the building of bridges in rural areas where there is an absence of infra-structure in isolated communities.