The trio at the apex of South Africa’s military admit to financial shortcomings but are adamant the national defence force will meet whatever obligations are given it by the President and the executive.
The Department of Defence (DoD) annual report for the 2017/18 financial year, which ended on 31 March, was last week tabled in Parliament. Indications are it will be on the agenda of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans’ meeting scheduled for 16 October. Ahead of this meeting the committee is expected to discuss the Armscor annual report on 10 October and the annual reports of the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) and the Castle Control Board on 11 October.
In her foreword, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula points out “South Africa is on a path of reduced defence expenditure, placing serious constraints on the effective and efficient execution of the defence mandate and subsequent governance and accountability arrangements”.
She wants defence in a national sense to be mandate driven and “not budget driven as is currently the case”.
“The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is expected to defend and protect South Africa and to rapidly intervene during crises on the continent. It must sustain peace support operations and continuously secure the land borders, the full maritime zone and the airspace. The defence force is also expected to support other departments when required and to execute many international obligations. This level of ambition is not sustainable at the current level of funding,” she writes and goes on to say: “In terms of forward planning, we must assume defence will remain on this downward funding trajectory for the foreseeable future. Should this be the case, urgent steps have to be taken to stabilise the department and create a more sustainable defence capability, albeit at a lower-level than envisaged in the 1998 and 2015 Defence Reviews.
“Dramatic measures have to be implemented to ensure the department can sustainably function within the reduced allocation. I have directed the department to formulate targeted interventions to achieve short term sustainability. These interventions must ensure the least possible disruption to fighting units and must enhance the SANDF operational output.
“In terms of human resources, the budget constraints necessitated defence to consider a reduction of personnel. Considering operational pressures, we made a decision not to reduce the personnel complement.”
In his strategic statement, Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube, notes “defence is currently faced with a severe funding dilemma, vis-á-vis an ageing work force and increasing compensation of employees budget as well as legacy information systems, of which the older than 30-years financial management system is but one examples. Sadly, the effect of this ‘Triple Defence Dilemma’ manifested during the year under review in various audit outcomes, specifically relating to our Asset Management environment”.
He will pursue asset management as well as instituting consequence management using established processes in the DoD and liaise with National Treasury and political oversight bodies for an improved defence allocation.
In his introduction to the annual report, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke notes challenges ranging from non-renewal of equipment and personnel, deteriorating facilities and a prime mission maintenance backlog are all due to a decline in defence funding.
On the credit side of the ledger the country’s top soldier pays tribute to people in uniform.
“It is without doubt through the calibre of men and women in uniform that the SANDF continues to function effectively and efficiently despite shortcomings.”