Defence budget up, but not by much


Its track record of getting the job done in spite of the shortage of resources does not appear to have overtly influenced Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in allocating funds to the South African National Defence Force.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has been allocated R40.2 billion, just over R1.8 billion more than her predecessor got from National Treasury to make the military work.

The result is men and women in uniform will have to tighten belts and work smarter in taskings ranging from border protection through to continental peacekeeping, anti-piracy operations, disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

This was emphasised by National Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile in the foreword to this year’s national budget. He wrote: “Departments and spending agencies do have to learn to do more with less. In the period ahead, improvements in outcomes have to come from qualitative improvements in the use of available budgets and other inputs”.

This has seen National Treasury allocate R40.2 billion to the uniformed branch of government service for the 2013/14 financial year with an increase of R2.4 billion budgeted for the next financial year rising to R45.1 billion in 2015/16.

On the positive side, acquisitions have not been entirely discarded by those in charge of the national purse strings. Much-needed new maritime patrol aircraft to replace the ageing and shrinking C-47TP fleet as well as new infantry combat vehicles are provided for in the medium term expenditure.

The bulk of the extra funding goes to border protection, with two more companies due to be deployed on the Botswana and Namibia borders; Operation Copper, the ongoing tri-nation anti-piracy effort in the Mozambique Channel, and South Africa’s latest continental deployment to the Central African Republic (CAR). R200 million will be spent on keeping the deployment there during the current financial year, with R215 million earmarked for the 2014/15 financial year. This deployment will last until 2018 in terms of an extended Memorandum of Understanding signed between CAR and South Africa.

Border protection and foreign deployments have been allocated an additional R715 million.

Another area where the SANDF will be more active is in maintenance and refurbishment of its bases. This programme started in 2009 and was the brainchild of current SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke. He took it upon himself to re-establish the military’s Works Regiment due to a lack of performance by the Department of Public Works.

After spending R862 million in that year, the allocated funding for base upgrades rose to R1.2 billion in the 2012/13 financial year and the current fiscal term will see R980 million go to making bases better places to live and work.

Refurbishment projects are underway at 2 Military Hospital; 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 21 SA Infantry Battalions; Air Defence Artillery School the Army Combat Training Centre; the Navy Training Unit and the School of Engineers.