In what is probably the most telling example made public to date of the impact the lack of defence funding, South Africa forfeited more than R54 million in UN reimbursements due to the unserviceability of prime mission equipment.
This came to light when Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula answered a question posed by Kobus Marais, the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence minister.
He asked the minister to give details of the total amount which could have been received annually as reimbursement for participation in the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, what was actually received annually from the United Nations as reimbursement and potential reimbursements forfeited by South Africa and, finally, the reasons for forfeiture.
The ministerial response indicates R397 778 164 was “billed” to the UN as what South Africa expected to be paid for personnel (R251 656 006), self-sustainment (R61 104 030) and main equipment (R85 018 126).
Actual reimbursement received, according to Mapisa-Nqakula’s reply, was R232 505 094 with R110 606 126 “still due by the UN” and R54 666 943 forfeited.
“The forfeited reimbursement is due to unserviceability of prime mission equipment in the Mission Area. Budget cuts have a negative impact on operations and the maintenance of prime mission equipment. This results in the SANDF not being able to meet the strict UN assessment criteria for reimbursement,” according to the Ministerial reply.
Marais maintains the amount forfeited is “the shocking reality of what not only the national defence force, but South Africa, is losing due to unserviceability of military equipment”. He sees poor logistic support and a “lack of service” from the SA Air Force’s only medium transport squadron – 28 – as contributing factors.
The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo where South Africa is one of three contributors to the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) could be markedly different if both government and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) priorities were in line with preferred defence outcomes and budgeting.
If taken to its fullest extent, Marais sees Operation Mistral becoming a strategic and self-sustaining exercise.
“It is currently not being either managed or steered in this direction and the Minister and General Solly Shoke (SANDF Chief) must take responsibility,” he said.