A senior SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Special Forces officer told members of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans that cutting the defence budget was akin to taking the country’s security for granted.
Brigadier General Stephen Maloma was speaking to committee members who were in Pretoria and surrounds last week to see first-hand prevailing conditions at certain military bases and facilities.
According to the Parliamentary communication service, they went to 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, Special Forces Headquarters and the Special Forces School as well as the headquarters of the SA Air Force (SAAF) and its hub of transport excellence – AFB Waterkloof. Committee members also called on the Works Formation’s Gauteng regional workshop.
This workshop, one of nine provincial units under the auspices of the Works Formation, is currently doing demolition work at the military medical facility as part of a major maintenance and repair contract.
The committee expressed concern about slow procurement processes which have delayed completion of work at the hospital, especially in the pharmacy and theatre areas.
“We understand the services of a medical technologist still have to be procured before the project can be completed,” committee chairman Malusi Motimele said, adding the matter would be taken up with Department of Defence management and “eventually” the Minister (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) to speed up the process.
While at the Valhalla Hill complex which houses Joint Operations and Special Forces, committee members were briefed by Maloma who stressed cuts to the national defence budget could be seen as compromising national security.
He said no country could claim to be a regional power if it stood by its progressive foreign policy and compromised its capability of translating this into quality defence services.
“Cutting the budget of the army is tantamount to cutting the defence value of the country,” he said, giving the United States as an example of what can be done.
“The US takes the business of defence seriously and keeps its defence capacity strong all the time. It always prioritises its defence and ensures its military capacity becomes and remains powerful.”
Committee members were told, according to the Parliamentary communication service, budget cuts have diminished Special Forces capacity and have “far-reaching and serious implications on the number of warm bodies and other important and necessary resources”.
Maloma said SANDF Special Forces was a unit that exists to do what other units cannot do. “Special Forces go where others can’t and must at all times provide a rapid response when required. Special Forces soldiers must be able to meet all conditions – normal or abnormal.”
He also told committee members that while Special Forces numbers were less than needed, protection of their facilities was not compromised.
“We are untouchable. Our facilities are under strong and reliable protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he is reported as having said.