Former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota tried and failed to find funding for the SA Army’s equipment rejuvenation, Chief of Army Force Structure Maj Gen Lungile Dlulane says.
Dlulane says the Army presently has 35 registered projects, ranging from acquiring new main battle tanks to infantry weapons.
“Some projects are partially funded; some are not funded at all.”
He adds that rejuvenating the SA Army`s equipment – as contemplated in Finance Minister Trevor Manuel`s budget vote in February this year – is a “mammoth programme” and must now “be decided by the new government after the elections.”
“The programme is in place, it is ready … all the projects are lined up, but funding is key.”
His colleague, Chief of Army Force Preparation, Maj Gen Vuzi Masondo, last week told journalists the Army faced a “serious challenge regarding our equipment” and was “hopeful that in future there will be an allocation to address that aspect.”
Dlulane clarified that much of the SA Army`s equipment is old but not outdated.
“It has reached the end of its lifecycle. It is not outdated as such. There are projects in place to replace this equipment. The equipment we are using now is still effective and doing the job.
‘For example if you look at the Samil, the truck we use, they have lifespan of 30 years. They`ve already gone beyond that; but they are still in place, the support for them is there, industry all over the country is supporting them,” Dlulane said.
Nevertheless, a project is in place to replace them, he said.
Meanwhile, the Master Paratrooper of the SA Army, Brig Gen McGill Alexander (Ret) says the airborne forces are already seeing the effect of limited rejuvenation.
“The Airborne is a good example of how the rejuvenation and replacement of equipment is proceeding. Just over a year ago we retired the Jakkals air-droppable vehicle system, and today you are able to see … some of the Geckos that are utilised.
“Now, the Gecko is a very modern, need, airborne vehicle that has only just been introduced into the SA Army. That is an example of the renewing of equipment that has taken place.
“You`ll also have seen the air defence artillery has a missile system; a new system that is just being taken into use for airborne application. [Starstreak] is a system that can be air dropped and can support the airborne forces if there is an air threat. That is a very modern, up to date system that has only just been acquired.”
Alexander says the parachute infantry now also use a new Mark 5 and Mark 6 parachutes that have replaced the old Mark 3 and 4. “These are more stable, they have a slower rate of decent, they are able to carry more equipment and they can be used in higher winds.”
Manuel in February indicated that in light of Defence Update 2025 the budgetary priority for defence will be making “the landward forces, the backbone of South Africa`s peace and stability initiative on the continent, more flexible and mobile through modernising and renewing the main equipment over the next 30 years.”
Treasury documents add the “first priority will be the light and mobile forces, airborne forces, intelligence and engineer elements used mainly in the support of international commitments. The second priority will be the conventional and mechanised elements of the SANDF`s landward capability, such as mechanised infantry, artillery and armour.
“Other key policy priority areas are: rejuvenating the department`s manpower composition through more people going through the military skills development programme; renovating, repairing and maintaining infrastructure and facilities which urgently need it; and improving administrative processes and accountability.”