No new defence review for SA Department of Defence


Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has confirmed that there will be no new defence review, leaving the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to make do with the ageing and grossly underfunded 2015 review.

The Minister was providing a written response to a recent National Assembly question by Democratic Alliance MP Sarel Jacobus Francois (Kobus) Marais about whether she would commission a new defence review, in light of the budget constraints facing the SANDF. The defence budget has been declining by approximately 5% a year in real terms. Over R10 billion has been cut from the department’s budget in the last three years and a further R5 billion will be cut in 2021.

In her response, the minister stated that, “No I have not commissioned a new Defence Review. We have concluded that the Defence Review 2015 is, and remains, the National Policy on Defence and it should not be withdrawn. The bulk of the Defence Review 2015 remains valid and appropriate even though it was predicated on a steady-stream of improving defence allocation.

“Furthermore, we have concluded that I, as the Executive Authority responsible for Defence, must engage strongly with Cabinet and Parliament on the ever-declining defence allocation. This must include discussion, debate and resolution on the ‘Level of Ambition’ that South Africa wants, including the shape and size of the Defence Force; the emerging security risks, contingencies and priorities that we require the Defence Force to be prepared for; and the concomitant defence capabilities that we must fund and support.”

The Department of Defence (Do), in its most recent annual report, for 2018/19, admits that the Defence Review is dead due to a lack of funding. It states that, “Strategically, the funding allocation to the DoD effectively negates the SA Defence Review 2015 policy position and dramatically reduces the level of defence ambition that can be pursued”.

The 2015 Defence Review is in reality the 2012 Defence Review, commissioned by then defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu but only approved by Cabinet when her successor Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was appointed.

“Implementation of the SA Defence Review 2015 remains a work in progress and the DoD will continue to pursue this within resources allocated to it by the National Treasury,” it said in the latest annual report. However, SANDF officials have admitted that there is no money available to even implement the first stage of the review, to Arrest the Decline of the SANDF and defence industry.

The DoD 2017/18 annual report also cautioned that the Defence Review cannot be implemented, stating “cost-driven components of the plan to arrest the decline in defence capabilities remain unfunded”.

In 2015, the DoD asked National Treasury for R1.8 billion to start implementing the first phase of the Defence Review but the request was denied, forcing the Department to try and find other ways of funding implementation.

Whilst acknowledged as a comprehensive and well thought out document, the 2015 Defence Review remains a paper exercise without the necessary funding.