There’s a new man flying the defence flag in the opposition Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) shadow cabinet and his first position is that South Africa needs a professional, properly trained and disciplined defence force that is well enough funded to properly execute the tasks assigned it.
Kobus Marais has been an MP since 2006, serving previously as shadow minister for the trade and industry, public service and administration, economic development and finance portfolios as well as being the party spokesman on all issues relating to the disabled.
He takes over from David Maynier, who has been assigned the finance portfolio by the party’s leadership, and will replace the long-serving and outspoken MP on the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).
“With only the exception of the Seriti Commission which he will continue to oversee, I am now officially the opposition’s defence voice,” Marais said.
On border control, the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) major internal tasking, he sees a need for more and better co-operation with other government departments and agencies including Home Affairs, the SA Police Service and Environmental Affairs, particularly regarding wildlife poaching and smuggling of wildlife products. Contact with and sharing of border control responsibilities with SADC countries having common borders with South Africa should also form an integral part of border control and protection, he maintains.
Marais knows full well the SANDF also has a role to play on the continent with the rider that domestic priorities come first.
“We must cut our coat according to the cloth available” is the analogy he uses in this regard as far as the human, financial and materiel resources available in the defence force.
“Domestic priorities must determine the extent to which South Africa can become involved in support and peacekeeping in foreign countries.”
Marais is adamant intelligence is a resource the South African military must develop and properly utilise to enable proper early warning of possible threats.
This thinking leads him to ask what the human component of the SANDF should be.
“Can we, as a country, afford a half-trained but large permanent force with a small reserve or even a short-term volunteer service? Or should we be looking to a larger permanent force with the necessary essential structures, discipline, capabilities and equipment alongside a smaller reserve and possibly even a conscription element?
“The availability of financial resources and the ongoing struggle to grow the South African economy will be determining factors when it comes to a larger allocation for defence from National Treasury,” is his assessment but he remains adamant the SANDF must have the best in terms of leaders and specialists.