Defence Review an important first step to SANDF rejuvenation


Leading South Africa defence and security think tank, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in a Policy Brief by its director Jakkie Celliers, calls the 2014 Defence Review a document that has “much to be applauded”.

“Many other recommendations call for analysis. These include greater clarity on the future role of Armscor; the intention to establish a permanent forward base in Africa; the establishment of a naval base on the east coast of South Africa; how to provide strategic airlift capability able to project and sustain combat forces over extended distances and the need for extended maritime protection capability inshore and offshore, among others,” Celliers writes.

The man who also serves on the International Advisory Board of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) summarises: “After three tortuous years Cabinet approved the Defence Review in March this year.
“The Review is a huge improvement on the previous public document. Its 15 chapters include considerable background material that may not all have been necessary – but given the state of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), this is as much a manual to fix the department as it is a path toward the future.”

Earlier this year ISS warned that the Department of Defence was neither equipped, nor trained, nor orientated for its future missions. “It is mired in indecision, endless transformation and an unsustainable use of its existing budget. Time has come for a radical intervention if the country is to avoid future embarrassment”.

These findings, Celliers maintains, have all been borne out by the Defence Review.

According to the Review the SANDF is in a critical state of decline, is unsustainable and prime mission equipment, especially in the landward force, faces block obsolescence. “Ammunition stocks are depleted, infrastructure is falling apart, skilled staff is leaving and the arms of the various services operate in silos and are unable to manage basic procurement, which is centralised and run by the deputy director-general in the Defence Secretariat”.
“The nub of the Review,” Celliers writes, “is its recommendation that South Africa embark on a long-term commitment (to 2034) to achieve four key milestones to rejuvenate the Department of Defence and establish commensurate capabilities”.

These are: Planning Milestone One (from 2015): arrest the decline in critical capabilities through immediate, directed interventions; Planning Milestone Two (from 2017): rebalance and re-organise the SANDF as the foundation for future growth; Planning Milestone Three (from 2023): create a sustainable defence force that can meet current ordered defence commitments, and Planning Milestone Four (from 2028): enhance the defence force’s capacity to respond to nascent challenges in the strategic environment.

When it comes to funding the military Celliers maintains South Africa is underspending on defence and has been doing so for at least a decade.
“A recent report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) confirms fast-growing Angola, long considered South Africa’s only potential rival in the southern African power stakes, already spends about 50% more on its military than South Africa in absolute terms – and Algeria almost three times that of South Africa.
“Neither country has the political ambitions of South Africa nor its pretences to continental leadership and imposing regional stability”.

Celliers sees the Review being recognised as an important first step on the rejuvenation of the SANDF “but not the end of the conversation on South African defence matters”.