Calls for investigation into SANDF’s R5 million military funeral

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The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has called for an investigation into the R5 million funeral of SA National Defence Force Chief Logistics, Lieutenant General Xolani Ndlovu, maintaining it is disconcerting to spend that much during a time of financial austerity.

DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Minister Kobus Marais said such “excessive spending” by the SANDF flies in the face of “clear directives from the National Treasury to exercise fiscal restraint.”

“While acknowledging the need to honour and support the passing of military personnel, the DA questions the seemingly unrestrained use of funds, especially during a period of austerity measures. A downscaled yet dignified funeral would have been more appropriate, considering the urgent requirements to save the SANDF’s defence and protection capabilities,” the DA said in a statement last week following the 26 November funeral of Ndlovu.

“The use of the only serviceable C-130 and the only two serviceable Gripens from AFB Makhado for a flypast, along with the reported use of the Brazilian Embraer C-390 [on a demonstration flight to South Africa] as a luxury taxi, raises serious concerns about responsible resource allocation. These actions come at a time when defence budget cuts and critical resource challenges threaten the retention of essential defence force capabilities,” Marais stated.

The DA called on Minister of Defence Thandi Modise to institute an independent board of inquiry into this “apparent reckless spending spree. There must be consequences for those responsible for these preventable and unjustified expenses. The DA further emphasises the need for clear guidelines to ensure the implementation of austerity measures across all sectors of the Department of Defence and the SANDF,” Marais continued.

The DA reaffirmed its commitment to honouring fallen soldiers while urging prudent financial management to safeguard the nation’s scarce funds and prioritise the funding of constitutional primary responsibilities within the Department of Defence and SANDF.

A Rapport estimate suggested the funeral cost an estimated R5 million: R200 000 for the C-130 and Gripen flypast; R3.1 million for 350 soldiers’ allowances for nine days; R720 000 for 100 senior officers’ allowances for three days; R200 000 for five luxury buses; and R300 000 for catering etc.

To manage a more than R6 billion budget shortfall, the SANDF was in August instructed by National Treasury to freeze spending on catering, conferences, workshops, and other related goods and services. New hirings were also to be frozen, along with the advertising of new procurement contracts for infrastructure projects, unless approved by National Treasury.

Ndlovu grew up at New Brighton in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). In 1985 he went into exile, and received military training in Angola. He served as Platoon Commander in 1986 and worked with struggle stalwart Getrude Shope. Ndlovu was recruited to Operation Vula in 1990, linking domestic activist structures with the ANC in exile. He completed a Platoon Commanders course at Militez Military Base in Zambia in 1994 and later integrated into the South African National Defence Force.

After serving in various posts at 5 SA Infantry Battalion from 1995 to 2001, he was appointed as SO2 Plan at Army Support Base in Bloemfontein, a position he served until 2007. He was elevated into higher echelons of the SANDF in 2021 when he was promoted to the rank of Major General and appointed Deputy Chief Logistics until December 2022. He was promoted to the substantive rank of Lieutenant General on 1 January 2023 and was appointed as the Chief of the SANDF Logistics Division. He occupied the post until his passing from a long illness in mid-November.