An in-depth look at the latest Department of Defence annual report brings to light the fact that the military’s budget is insufficient and government will have to downsize the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as well as its continental troop commitments.
This is broadly how opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais analyses the report which he maintains shows “a further shift to human resources which now accounts for 54% of expenditure”.
“One would seriously expect a much smaller spend on staff in the SANDF where capital equipment such as aircraft, combat vehicles, ships and vehicles to name just a few should receive a larger share of the budget,” he said, adding the SANDF “has struggled to fulfil its mandate”.
Marais makes five specific points as regards leadership challenges faced by the SANDF.
These are a budget that stands at “only 1.13% of Gross Domestic Product”, insufficient money for flying hours, ships in dock due to underspend on sea hours, unsuitable equipment for troops deployed on continental peace support and peacekeeping missions and the sad situation of private security having to be provided at SANDF headquarters.
“In summary there is no way South Africa can afford the SANDF the government wants. We must cut our cloth to size and do it quickly,” he said.
Looking at the national border protection tasking – Operation Corona – Marais notes that deployments on the South Africa/Swaziland border were part of the second phase of deployment post 2009. “Details regarding the exact number of sub-units (companies) deployed along this section of South Africa’s land border remain unclear.”
He also asks what measures are in place to prevent crime and corruption by and of soldiers doing border protection because the report does not provide any information in this regard.
Marais sums up the plight of the SA Air Force (SAAF) as “inadequate, in terms of budget, flying hours, an ageing fleet and lacking in an effective early warning system”.
“The SAAF’s combat and air support capabilities are severely restricted due to current budgetary limitations. Air patrols are limited as well as the ability of the SAAF to effectively respond to airborne threats. Maritime domain awareness is also limited.”
He maintains the C-47TP aircraft operated by 35 Squadron from AFB Ysterplaat are “in urgent need of a more efficient replacement”.
As far as maritime operations are concerned he notes the annual report does not provide information on what impact reduced sea hours had on operations and routine patrol work.
The maritime arm of the SANDF has a low number of sea hours – only 3 070. This is due to delays in repair and maintenance of vessels but is expected to increase over the next six months. The original estimate of hours at sea for the 2014/15 year was set at 12,000.