Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has told Parliament she wishes for a defence budget that is two percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)to allow the South African military to properly execute all the tasks assigned it.
The current defence budget is R44.5 billion, just over one percent of GDP, and it will be stretched as far as possible as the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) continues to execute tasks notwithstanding the mismatch between resources allocated to the force and its commitments at home and on the African continent.
Elaborating on the Defence Review finding that the SANDF is declining, she told the National Assembly the misalignment between resources and commitments was “mainly responsible for the decline we have to arrest and reverse”.
During the Defence Budget Vote in Parliament this week, she also admitted the lack of funding coming the SANDF’s way was exacerbated by the resources government had to spend to address socio-economic priorities.
The border control tasking performed by the SANDF under Operation Corona was one example of how the lack of funding had affected an SANDF Cabinet approved deployment.
“Demands for the services of the military are ever increasing. The SANDF continues to deploy 13 companies for border safeguarding duties. These 13 must be expanded to 22 to execute the full border safeguarding requirement. Due to budgetary constraints we have not met this expanded requirement. It is our intention to expand this by an extra two companies in the current financial year,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
As far as continental deployments were concerned she said there were currently 2 213 SANDF members in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan’s Darfur region. Mapisa-Nqakula warned the United Nations “must take responsibility” to provide all the necessary support to South African forces. This is particularly applicable in the Darfur region where South Africa has “constraints related to the delivery of logistic sustainment of our soldiers”.
On the Defence Review, initiated by her predecessor three years ago, Mapisa-Nqakula said its continued delay in being approved by Parliament meant the current financial year will be devoted to planning with implementation only starting in the 2016/17 financial year and beyond. She is confident a resourced milestone one of the Review will be reached by the end of the current 2014/19 financial cycle.
She also told Parliament the Military Command planning team was working on right-sizing the SANDF personnel complement, developing a new military strategy spelling out utilisation of military resources in line with Defence Review policy objectives and developing an appropriate force design and structure. This team is also looking at the renewal of the education, training and development system of the SANDF.
She ultimately sees the implementation of all four Defence Review milestones producing an agile, balanced and technologically advanced defence force able to meet current commitments and future obligations.
“The defence force will be sufficiently equipped and skilled to successfully execute operations across the full spectrum of conflict,” she said adding: “It must have the capacity to defence and safeguard the sovereignty of the Republic of South Africa, keep and enforce peace beyond our borders and have an offensive capability to deter potential aggressors”.