Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says while South Africa a peaceful country that lives in harmony with its neighbours, it must remain vigilant.
“South Africa’s constrained ability to effectively manage, monitor and react to land, air and maritime threats allows for the continuous inflow of illegal migrants, smuggling of goods, weapons and human trafficking,” the Minister said.
Delivering her department’s Budget Vote in Parliament on Friday, Mapisa-Nqakula said South Africa must remain vigilant in protecting and securing its airspace and maritime zones.
“Not only is the Defence Force expected to defend and protect South Africa, it is expected to rapidly intervene during crises on the continent. It must sustain Peace Support Operations and continuously secure the land borders, the full maritime zone and the airspace.
“We are all aware of the growing cyber-threat to the Republic and the risk to our sovereignty. It is paramount that efficient, powerful and cost-effective cyber-defence and cyber-security solutions are implemented to protect the critical information infrastructure.
“We must remain vigilant in protecting and securing our airspace and maritime zones. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) and privately owned small aircraft are often used for acts that threaten the safety and security of our people,” the Minister said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the Defence Force is expected to be a key role-player in the cyber-defence of South Africa and to support other departments when required.
The Minister expressed concern on the department’s low budget.
“In terms of human resources, the budget constraints drive us to consider a reduction of personnel. However, considering operational pressures, the Council of Defence made a decision not to reduce the defence personnel complement.
“I have directed the department to make personnel interventions focused on the combat units, supported by both a ‘feeder system’ that will bring in young, fit and healthy soldiers and an accelerated, attractive retirement programme with full benefits, beyond that of the current Mobility Exit Mechanism (MEM), but without losing critical skills,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula has instructed the department to rejuvenate the personnel component by:
Maximising the combat capability of the SANDF by staffing combat units with existing young, healthy and fit soldiers. This will improve both the average staffing of units, as well as the mean-age of those units.
Ensuring the retention of technical, medical and other scarce skills.
Driving career management and succession planning in pursuit of a young, professionalised and skilled Defence Force.
She thanked the 15 000 Reserve Force members, who voluntarily served in the past financial year.
“I wish to assure you that deficiencies and corruption in the current Reserve Force System are being addressed and I have directed that the whole Reserve Force System must be overhauled. I expect the Reserve Force Council to make inputs in this regard,” the Minister said.