Feature: SANDF outlines threats, priorities


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has revealed its short and long term priorities, including border safeguarding, anti-piracy patrol and continental peacekeeping, which it aims to pursue in spite of severe funding cuts.

In the Department of Defence 2018 Annual Performance Plan, Secretary for Defence Dr Sam Gulube states that “the Department of Defence continues to defend and protect the Republic of South Africa through the execution of the borderline safeguarding function, the continued contribution to domestic, regional and continental stability through the deployment of military capabilities and the provision of safety and security related support to the South African Police Service where so directed.”

In explaining its priorities, the DoD outlined the threats and challenges facing South Africa. On the political side, it said increasing political instability, predominantly on the African continent, continues to demand the presence of international peacekeeping operations. “The DOD will remain ready to participate in resourced peace support operations as ordered by Government if and when so required.”
“National interests will continue to drive the involvement of major powers in Africa, specifically where vital interests are at stake. While ‘traditional’ interests such as oil and strategic minerals remain important, the perceived threat posed by increases in Islamic extremism to intra-state security is becoming increasingly more predominant. According to the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2016 the world has become less peaceful since 2008. Deaths due to terrorism attacks have increased by 286%, deaths related to military battles increased over fivefold and in 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (NHCR) recorded 57 million refugees and internally-displaced people at levels not seen in sixty years.
“Globalisation continues to create opportunities for transnational operating aggressive non-state actors that make use of global cyber-, financial and transportation networks, especially when terrorist and criminal groups have a common cause of destabilising and breaking-down governmental systems. The nodal points, such as seaports, airports, computer servers, banking systems, form the centres of their operations with the ultimate end-state to bring about national and regional political instability.
“Domestically, the DOD will continue to defend and protect the sovereignty and the related priorities of territorial integrity, constitutional order, the security and continuance of national institutions, the well-being, prosperity and upliftment of the people of the RSA, contributing to the creation of a stable environment conducive to economic growth and demonstrable good governance.
“Regionally, the RSA will continue to contribute to the stability, unity and prosperity of the Southern African region and the African continent in general. The DOD will continue to support resourced peacekeeping support operations under the auspices of the United Nation’s (UN) and African Union (AU) on the African continent as ordered by National Government and compliance with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force pledge.”

The Department of Defence said it will position itself, within available resources, to respond appropriately when called upon to do so through ordered commitments in accordance with Government policy.

The Annual Performance Plan said a “high level of SANDF combat readiness is required with resourced capabilities” due to the possibility of inter-state conflicts. “Conflicts in Africa may require the deployment of SANDF members who will face armed groupings using heavy conventional weapons. During SANDF deployments in support of international peace support operations, the SANDF may increasingly face rising challenges of global tensions, hybrid threats that contain a mixture of international and non-international forms of conflict, and the reality of weak and failing states. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is expected to increase. While the nature of war is not expected to change, the SANDF takes note that the character of conflict and war is changing and constantly evolving.
“The risk regarding international military conflict is growing. The possibility of international military crises which might draw South Africa in, through its existing treaty obligations. The DOD will focus on the preparation of its forces (structure and training doctrine) to ensure that the SANDF is positioned to respond to future complex military environment,” it stated.

External deployments

As part of efforts to ensure peace and stability on the continent, the SANDF will continue to supply an Infantry Battalion plus supporting elements to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the auspices of the UN Mission (MONUSCO). “The bulk of the SANDF elements deployed as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern parts of the DRC and selected specialist SANDF elements, amongst other, military observers and staff officers, are deployed in and around the capital city of Kinshasa,” the Performance Plan said.

Apart from the DRC, the SANDF will continue to provide military observers as part of the UN/AU hybrid mission in Sudan during the 2018/19 fiscal year. An amount of R3.3 billionis provided over the medium term in the Force Employment programme for activities related to peace support operations.

Maritime security

Border security is a major consideration for the SANDF, especially the land and sea borders. The DoD said the focus of the SA Navy continues to remain on the preparation of naval forces for operations in support of the Maritime Security Strategy (MSS). Naval operations involving patrols in the Mozambique Channel for the prevention of piracy-related activities “remains a National and Departmental priority”.
“The SADC Maritime Security Strategy will require continued capacity building in (regional) Maritime Domain Awareness to ensure a safe and secured SADC Maritime environment. The latter will be achieved through Joint International Military exercises and other forms of military cooperation with strategic partners such as the BRICS and SADC defence forces to cite but a few. The focus of the SADC MSS will remain on maritime crime prevention close to East Coast shores and highlights the requirement for the littoral states to be able to exercise control over their territorial waters and the role of the DOD in protecting the maritime resources in support of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as part of Operation Phakisa.
“Over the next three years, the South African Navy plans to conduct maritime border patrols and combat piracy in the Mozambique Channel. A suite of surface (frigates), sub-surface (submarines) and offshore patrol vessels will be deployed to keep the country’s maritime space safe and support the execution of the Southern African Development Community’s Maritime Security Strategy. The Department aims to maintain the number of hours at sea per year at 12 000 until the FY2018/19, after which they are expected to decrease to 10 000 to align performance with the available budget following the Cabinet-approved budget reduction of R1.6 billion in the Maritime Defence programme over the medium term. An amount of R1.5 billion is allocated over the medium term to implement the Maritime Security Strategy mainly in the Maritime Defence programme.”

Border security

The Department of Defence said that as a sovereign state, South Africa has a duty to safeguard its borders against the possibility of transnational crime, international crime syndicates and cartels, the illegal flow of undocumented migrants, and illicit economic activities. Over the medium term, the Department will deploy 15 sub-units along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. For this purpose, R3.1 billion is allocated for this over the medium term in the Force Employment programme.
“The DOD is considering new methods of fulfilling its border safeguarding function in the context of a declining departmental budget and commensurate resource allocation. The draft Border Safeguarding Strategy has been developed to secure the air, land and maritime borders during FY2017/18. However the finalisation of the departmental Border Safeguarding Strategy is still waiting the promulgation of the National BMA [Border Management Authority] Strategy. Therefore the submission of the Border Safeguarding Sub-Strategy for approval through the departmental processes will only take place during FY2018/19.”

The Department of Defence envisages the Border Management Authority, responsible for the management of South Africa’s borderline and the country’s ports of entry, will be established by 2019.

Economic recession

An area of concern is the economic recession. “Lower economic growth for South Africa is expected for the year 2018, and the weakening of the RSA currency against other major currencies will further adversely affect economic growth, which is estimated at 1.1% for the FY2018/19.…Unemployment within the traditional work force sectors, including mining and agriculture, may contribute to industrial strikes which will further affect the economy and national security to which the SANDF may be called upon in support of Government intent.
“Statistics South Africa has indicated that unemployment increased by 27.7% for the first and second quarters of 2017 and the latest Statistic South Africa survey indicates poverty levels to be as high as 55.5% among the South African population, estimated at approximately 57 387 892 people. These economic factors may slow job creation in the country, which will increasingly create the possibility of conflict emanating from the unemployed and unemployable youth.”

The world’s growing population and urbanisation will spur migration and there will be a tendency for people to migrate across borders. “Trans-national terrorism and crime syndicates continue to increase their illicit activities contributing to instability therefore highlighting the need to resource the SANDF in terms of the border safeguarding responsibility,” the Annual Performance Plan stated.

Social Protests
“During the FY2017/18, violent social protests increased and must be cited as a factor of the highest concern for political and economic risk to South Africa. An increase in social protests and service delivery protests may be expected during the FY2018/19 MTEF [Medium Term Expenditure Framework], in the build up to the 2019 National elections, possibly requiring the SANDF with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure domestic peace and security.”

Cyber warfare
“There has been an increased cyber-attacks both globally and domestically in the past year against SA National Departments and companies. The DOD remains aware of the possibility of escalated cyber-attacks against South Africa should it become involved in a conflict perceived to be illegitimate. The DOD will implement robust network security architecture, including appropriate segregation and segmentation between the IT and control system (Including weapons systems) networks using firewalls and intrusion prevention/detection tools. The DOD will perform continuous network security monitoring thus enabling the identification of abnormalities on the network,” it stated.

During the 2017/18 fiscal year, the development of the Cyber Warfare Strategy continued within limited resources, and the DoD envisages the Cyber Warfare Strategy will be submitted to the Justice, Crime, Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster Ministers for approval and partial implementation during the 2018/19 fiscal year.
“The DOD Cyber Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) will be established to either prevent or recover from an information warfare incident through the establishment of a Cyber Warfare Command Centre Headquarters. The implementation of the Cyber Warfare Plan remains a challenge due to the inadequate resource allocation adversely impacting on the establishment of the Cyber Command Centre as a national MTSF Outcome 3 imperative.”

Climate Change

The Annual Performance Plan noted that climate change may result in increased regional flooding and/or drought, requiring the SANDF to provide increasing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during General Military Assistance (GMA) operations both domestically and in the SADC region.

The SANDF is already committed to providing disaster aid and relief, and search and rescue operations, on request. A projected R48.8 million is provided over the medium term in the Force Employment programme for activities related to internal operations. The Annual Performance Plan stated that the SANDF will continue to provide assistance including drought relief support, helicopters for firefighting and land and sea search and rescue capabilities.

Lack of funding

The SANDF has many priorities, but is being hampered by a lack of funding. In the Annual Performance Plan, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stated that “the Department of Defence continues to face the challenge of a persistent disjuncture between the defence mandate and the departmental budget allocation, which has an adverse impact on the ability of the Department of Defence to execute its legislative mandate.
“It must be noted however, that the impact of continued departmental budget reductions has begun to impact adversely on the ability of the South African National Defence Force to execute its mandate and responsibilities through the eroding of defence capabilities. Ongoing budget reduction will continue to hamper the implementation of the South African Defence Review 2015, Plan to Arrest the Decline as approved by Cabinet during 2015.”

The DoD stated that the decrease in defence allocations will continue into the medium term expenditure framework from 0.98% of GDP in 2018 to 0.97% in 2019. “The DOD budget allocation for the 2018 MTEF will have a direct bearing on the implementation of Government policy as articulated through the SA Defence Review 2015 deliverables and will affect defence renewal programs, the ability of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to prepare forces for internal and external commitments and to execute its Constitutional mandate effectively.
“The persistent disconnect between government’s defence expectations and the resources allocated to defence has eroded capabilities to the point where the Defence Force will be unable to fulfil its defence commitments. The SANDF therefore cannot even support the current modest level of ambition. South Africa’s defence ambition and defence capacity are clearly at odds with one another, further warning of the need to invest in its military if South Africa is to arrest its declining influence in Africa.”

The reduction in the budget allocation of the DOD from R50.6 billion to an amount of R47.9 billion resulted in a shortfall of R2.6 billion in both operating and capital budget to the Department for the 2018 MTEF.
“For the SANDF, the ongoing budget reduction, will result in the inability to meet the Governmental Outcome 3 “South Africa’s borders effectively defended, protected, secured and well-managed – border safeguarding” as this may affect the current deployed strength and will also create challenges to increase force levels to 22 sub-units. Furthermore this has an impact on the SANDF’s ability to provide trained forces, to renew and maintain combat operational capabilities, to ensure aviation safety during deployments and to counter the deterioration of facilities as well as the renewal of required technology and departmental information systems. The budget reduction will furthermore continue to adversely hamper the implementation of the South African Defence Review 2015, Plan to “Arrest the Decline” as approved by Cabinet during 2015.”