The part of South Africa’s foreign policy that sees the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed on peacekeeping and peace support missions continentally turns out to be a money spinner for government.
Afrikaans daily Beeld reports the National Treasury will be boosted by about R100 million alone this year in United Nations (UN) payments for the services rendered by soldiers assigned to the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC.
The downside is the money coming from the world body does not find its way into the SANDF’s coffers.
Andre Roux, a senior researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS), told the paper: “The (SA) government) is using our soldiers to make money and then subsidising other government departments with this revenue”.
Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, said the expectation was for R100 million to come government’s way “dependent on exchange rates and the health status of soldiers”.
Roux said the UN rate for a foot soldier was R10 200 a month. Dependent on qualifications this could rise as high as R30 000 for specialist military musterings.
South African military vehicles deployed to the DRC and used by the FIB generate an income of around R35 000 a month with Rooivalk combat support helicopters reportedly earning in excess of R100 000 a month. The UN has specified hire tariffs for equipment ranging from tents through to the high-tech Rooivalk.
According to Roux the UN requirement for payment is that equipment and personnel must have a 90% service level availability. If serviceability and availability drops below 70% the UN will not pay.
“Over the last eight years the SANDF has battled to reach a 66% level of availability for its vehicles. If the UN payment could have been invested in the SANDF vehicle maintenance account, even more would have been earned because of the higher availability of South African military vehicles,” he said.
Ever-shrinking defence budgets, with no relief in sight, mean the SANDF battles to keep soldiers and equipment in combat ready status. This is particularly true of continental deployments in support of AU and UN peace missions where equipment, some of it more than 30 years old, has to be kept serviceable as funds for replacement are not available.