The opposition Democratic Alliance party says it rejects a proposal that two cents out of every Rand the nation earns should be spent on its armed forces. The recommendation was included in the final report of Judge Lebotsang Ronnie Bosielo’s Interim National Defence Force Service Commission (INDFSC).
The party in a statement last week nevertheless called on Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu to “move quickly” to implement the commission’s recommendation to undertake a funded, extensive and public defence review. “… the recommendation that there be a properly funded and extensive defence review is particularly welcome. What is clear is that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the defence force. A defence review will provide an opportunity to completely rethink the mandate, capabilities and funding of the defence force.”
Sisulu appointed the commission in September last year to probe salaries and service conditions in the military and to investigate the removal of the South African National Defence Force from the public service.
The commission’s report found the SANDF chronically underfunded “for well over a decade” and noted this has lead to the collapse of morale, a deterioration in facilities as well as a backlog in the renewal of equipment. “The time has come for the country to spend more on its defence force to ensure that it has a defence force that is well trained, multi-skilled, motivated, disciplined, well equipped and combat ready,” the commission said.
David Maynier, the DA defence shadow minister says South Africa first needs a comprehensive defence review to define the mandate and make-up of the armed forces before deciding how much to spend on it. “The defence force often argues that we should be spending 2% of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] on the defence force, but the question that then arises is: what do we want the money for and how will it be spent? The defence force can’t answer that question,” he said.
For this reason the “recommendation that there be a properly funded and extensive defence review is particularly welcome. What is clear is that there needs to be a complete overhaul of the defence force. A defence review will provide an opportunity to completely rethink the mandate, capabilities and funding of the defence force.”
The National Treasury earlier this year expressed a similar view. When the Department of Defence (DoD) in March sought to show it was at least R7.335 billion underfunded for the current financial year, Treasury officials countered that the department’s strategic plan for the next three years contained no “credible vision of what the Defence Force should be doing”, partly because it was based on the 1996 White Paper on Defence and 1998 Defence Review that Treasury director Phillip van Schalkwyk said was “14 years out of date”. He also complained that resources were “severely diluted across the military” and that although the defence budget for the coming years had been cut the defence department has not appreciably reduced its fixed costs.
Briefing the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on the prescribed form and content of strategic plans, he said that for defence lacked strategic goals and objectives as well as a “higher order focus on outcomes.” In addition, it was “far too detailed in terms of outputs per subprogramme”, had too many core objectives (more than 10 is apparently difficult to manage) and included administrative support functions that “should not be in a strategic plan.” About 49 pages of the bulky 108 page document dealt with operational issues that also did not belong in a strategic plan. Van Schalkwyk concluded there was a need for “planners with a new vision for defence that could be accommodated within the budget.”
Sisulu in her second annual budget vote in May said a defence review was underway and would deliver a “final product by December 2010.” She agreed major changes, “both dramatic and evolutionary,” had taken place in the defence environment over the past 15 years. “The policy review and strategy would of necessity take this into consideration and will be informed by a clear-eyed assessment of what we want our foreign policy to achieve, the potential threats facing us, and socio-economic interests in what is a very uncertain era of growing competition among new major powers. “The new environment requires new thinking and new approaches,” Sisulu said.
The most recent United Nations Human Development Report, released last month, posits South Africa’s GDP as US$276.4 billion for 2008. It noted South Africa spent 1.3% of GDP on the military that year, substantially less than the top spenders: Georgia (8.5%), Saudi Arabia (8.2%), Oman (7.7%), Israel (7%), Chad (6.6%), Iraq (5.4%), East Timor (4.7%) and Canada and the US (4.3% each). The report showed South Africa ‘s neighbours tended to spend more on defence but with smaller GDP’s: Zimbabwe 4%, Namibia 3.5%, Angola 3%, Botswana 2.7%, Zambia: 2% and Lesotho with 1.6%. Mozambique and Tanzania lagged South Africa with 1.1% each.
The report listed South Africa as a “medium human development” country. The average military spending of the 29 countries in this category was 1.78%. The average for the “very high human development” group, including Israel, was 1.92%. The average for the “high” group, including Georgia and Saudi Arabia, was 2.2%, and for the “low human development” group that included Zimbabwe was 1.89%. The global average was 1.94% of GDP.
Maynier in the statement last week said the INDFSC report was “a complete indictment of the political, civilian and military leadership of the defence force over the past decade. There is evidence in the report of the failure of military leadership, a breakdown in the chain of command, the collapse of military discipline, the implosion of the grievance system, shocking service conditions for soldiers, all of which have an adverse effect on combat readiness.
“How is it that the Army got itself into a situation where soldiers were ‘no longer obeying orders’, ‘idling about’ and ‘reported for duty at 08h00 and left at 09h00 with the knowledge of their officers’? The fact is that the defence force – especially the South African Army – is in deep trouble and seems to have been virtually run into the ground,” Maynier charged.
The DA MP noted the report made “far-reaching recommendations that will go a long way to improving the state of the defence force, provided they are implemented.” He expressed concern that many of the recommendations in the report were “disappointingly vague”, including, for example, “that the Chief of the SANDF find ways and means to produce a definitive statement on civil military relations”; that the “Military Command vigorously ensure that all SANDF members do what is required to maintain a properly disciplined force”; that “the total revamping of career management policies and practices be carried out immediately; and that the “SANDF review its whole system of promotion and utilisation in order to achieve a fair, transparent and efficient method of using the services of all its members”.