Maritime defence in the same boat as air and land – short-funded


The maritime defence component of the Department of Defence’s (DoD) performance plan for the current year is – again – symptomatic of the malaise the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) finds itself it.

When important information such as sea hours is published as a footnote, and yet to be built platforms are listed as part of the output of the maritime defence programme, questions should follow. Whether that will happen remains to be seen as, at the time of publication, no date has been made public for Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to deliver her budget speech in the National Assembly.

As with other SANDF services, the SA Navy also finds its budget curtailed.

According to the Performance Plan for 2018, an amount of R4 424 685 000 has been allocated to the maritime defence programme for the 2018 medium term expenditure framework. This is a shortfall of close to R3 billion of what the maritime service maintains it needs to do its job of defending and protecting South Africa and its maritime zones.

The Navy asked for R7 303 239 616 and was given R2 878 554 616 less, which will, according to the performance plan “impact on its ability to maintain its capabilities and to deploy naval capabilities to meet deployment requirements”.

A footnote to the performance indicator for number of hours at sea per year has been cut from 12 000 to 10 000 in the 2019/2020 financial year. The reduction reflects the number of sea hours in accordance with performance over the past three financial years and, according to the plan, is “influenced by the availability of maritime platforms”. It also points out the reduction in sea hours is mainly due to “limited availability” of patrol capabilities.

One of the five stated outputs of the maritime defence programme sees “a surface combat and patrol capability of three frigates, one combat support vessel, two offshore patrol vessels and three inshore patrol vessels in each annual operational cycle”.

However, the SA Navy does currently not have a dedicated inshore patrol vessel capability and will have to wait at least another three to four years in terms of Project Biro before the first of three inshore patrol vessels is handed to the fleet.

The output also notes a mine warfare capability of two vessels to ensure safe access to South Africa’s harbours and mine clearance is part of the maritime defence programme. A footnote tells readers “there is currently no mine warfare capability, awaiting the operationalisation of Project Motsu.”