Talk of “sweating” defence assets and facilities to provide much-needed extra funding for an ailing SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has been bandied about by senior public sector officials without much to show for it to date.
Respected defence analyst and seasoned military observer Helmoed Heitman has suggestions which will have a positive impact on military funding.
As a starter he would like to see the Presidency and DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Co-operation) responsible for the cost of VIP flights on behalf of both. At the moment the South African Air Force is responsible for VIP flights.
“This obviously precludes National Treasury from grabbing the funds for its B7 account,” he said adding funding for any new dedicated VIP aircraft should come from the Presidency and DIRCO, now headed by Lindiwe Sisulu, who was defence and military veterans minister before Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula took over the position in June 2012.
He also agrees with a suggestion that the currently in limbo Border Management Authority (BMA), when it does become operational, has an active border guard as one of its components. This was suggested some years ago by then Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.
Soldiers could be detached for border protection duty, currently done under Operation Corona, with their salaries paid by the BMA. Indications are the BMA will be responsible for collecting all levies and payments at South Africa’s 72 legal ports of entry.
This will again impact positively on allocated defence funding and possibly see finance going to desperately needed capital expenditure and even research and development for the SANDF.
Another area where Heitman sees benefit for the SANDF is maritime protection, particularly coastal patrol and fisheries protection.
“Have the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) fund coastal patrol and fisheries protection operations undertaken by the SA Navy and SA Air Force, rather than operating their own little fleet. They have repeatedly demonstrated they can neither do this effectively or efficiently,” he said adding an argument could even be made for the Department of Transport to fund a proportion of hydrographic survey work done by the Navy.
“The advantage of this approach overall would be that training and administration of, and command over, suitable elements would be centralised in the defence force, instead of having multiple bodies doing very similar things, while the cost of actual operations is borne by the departments to whom the particular responsibility falls.
“It would also see SANDF personnel obtaining practical experience on core skills – patrolling, flying and seamanship – while providing other government departments with necessary capabilities. The SANDF would then have what amounts to a full-time reserve to be employed militarily in a time of crisis.”