Funding continues for peacekeeping, anti-piracy operations, border patrol and VIP jets – minister


Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, during her first defence budget debate yesterday, outlined some of the major allocations of the R40.243 billion 2013/14 defence budget.

This R40.2 billion figure amounts to 1.1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 3.8% of total government expenditure. At last year’s defence budget vote, then-defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu warned that shrinking defence spend to less than 1.2% of GDP would “impact negatively on our readiness.”

Some of the allocations for the 2013/14 period include R300 million for military veterans benefits and R585 million for anti-piracy operations as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Maritime Security Strategy.

Mapisa-Nqakula emphasised the importance of peacekeeping and peace support operations in Africa and the necessity of countering instability, poor governance and war for the sake of development and prosperity. As a result, South Africa has pledged to contribute a battalion to the envisaged intervention force that is being established for the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Border protection and foreign deployments have been allocated an additional R715 million.
“As part of our support to the region’s maritime security, we have also renewed our mandate for Operation Copper in the Mozambican Channel to deter piracy activities, and ensure the security of our exclusive economic zone,” the minister said. “These operations will continue in this financial year with an amount of R585 million allocated for the SADC Maritime Security Strategy.”

Another important tasking outlined by the minister yesterday during her budget vote speech was border security operations. “The SANDF has so far deployed its members in four provinces as part of its border security operations. The deployment along the border has contributed significantly to Government’s efforts of combating crime.
“I am concerned that despite expressed commitment to improve the landward defence capability, and despite funds being allocated in the past, very little progress has been made. This year, we have ensured that decisions on key projects are finalised and we are currently at contracting stages for the acquisition of various landward defence capabilities,” the minister said.

Mapisa-Nqakula noted that R300 million has been allocated this financial year for socio-economic benefits for military veterans. “We will continue to give attention to Government’s commitment to improve the lives of our military veterans. As part of this, I have decided to appoint an intervention support team to assist the DMV [Department of Military Veterans] in creating the systems required to effectively roll out the socio-economic benefits for our veterans.”

Another highlight of this year’s defence budget is the purchase of VVIP aircraft. This was originally approved by Cabinet in November 2011 but Mapisa-Nqakula said that “we have since consulted with National Treasury and funding has now been approved for the acquisition of this capability in this financial year.”

Mapisa-Nqakula concluded her speech by saying that, “despite the challenges of the moment, we will never allow our defence capabilities so essential to the protection of our country to be eroded…The defence force is our national asset and should be protected.”

The budget allocation for defence for the 2012/13 period was R37.5 billion and was projected to reach R39.9 billion for 2013/14. According to figures released earlier this year, the defence budget will increase by R2.4 billion for the next financial year and will rise to R45.1 billion in 2015/16.