Tomorrow is defence budget day in Parliament and while Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula can point to a slight increase in funding for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), with additional funding expected in the 2015/16 financial cycle, the military will again be expected to do more with less.
In February then-Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan when tabling his national budget indicated the Department of Defence and its two major components – the SANDF and the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) – would be allocated R42.8 billion for the 2014/15 financial year. This is just under six percent of total government expenditure.
The majority of this money will be spent on salaries with the remaining 44% going to fund training; deployments, internally and continentally; acquisitions of equipment (including offshore patrol vessels and maritime patrol aircraft); office space; refurbishment of military bases and facilities as well as destruction of facilities and, in one instance, starting work on a new military facility.
This facility will replace AFB Durban, on the site of the old Durban International Airport. The site has been earmarked by Portnet for use as additional harbour space for a dig-out port set to be operational by 2016.
An amount of R109 million has been set aside for relocation of the Durban base in the current financial year with a further R121 million going to the same expenditure in next financial cycle. While approval has been granted, the SA Air Force (SAAF) had not, at the time of publication, responded to enquiries as to where the new base will be. Last year a SAAF command council member said investigations into the most suitable site for the new base were underway but did not divulge any more detail.
AFB Durban is currently home to 15 Squadron flying Oryx and A109 helicopters. The Squadron’s C Flight is based at AFB Port Elizabeth and flies the BK117.
Operationally, South Africa airmen, medics, sailors and soldiers will again be deployed on the continent as part of the UN mission in the DRC and the hybrid AU/UN mission in Darfur. All four arms of service plus the Reserve Force will also again contribute to border safeguarding that will see 13 companies deployed along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Worryingly, four of nine planned exercises for the current financial year were cancelled and no indication is given of exercises planned for the 2014/15 cycle.
Among objectives set for the DMV are “decent housing” for 6 000 military veterans in the medium terms’ access to healthcare services for 29 000 veterans and ongoing education support for 1 800 eligible veterans and dependents by 2016/17.