The lion’s share of the defence budget for the 2016/17 financial year will go to paying the salaries of the around 80 000 men and women in uniform and civilian clothing who make up the personnel of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), according to the Department of Defence (DoD) and the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV).
The budget tabled in the National Assembly this week by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan shows 57% of the total budget of R47.169 billion – just on R27 billion – as “compensation of employees”. And it doesn’t stop there as the figure is expected to rise to R27.1 billion in the following financial cycle.
The Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) for the DoDMV note: “As part of Cabinet’s decision to lower the national aggregate expenditure ceiling, the department’s compensation of employees budget has been reduced by R1.9 billion in 2017/18 and by R2.9 billion in 2018/19, decreasing its share of total expenditure to 53.5%.”
Overall the allocation given to defence is slightly up from the R44.579 billion Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula received from then Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene last year in February. Defence watchers point out when the Rand/dollar exchange rate and inflation is taken into account, military spending is again one of the poor relations as far as National Treasury is concerned.
In his budget speech Gordhan lumped defence, public order and safety into one category and said spending on them will rise from R172 billion this financial year to R204 billion in the next.
He only singled out the Farlam Commission for a special mention and said its recommendations led to R598 million being allocated to enhancing the capacity of public order policing units over the medium term expenditure period.
“Allocations are also made to strengthen institutions supporting constitutional democracy and to combat corruption, and to enhance the independence of the judiciary. Funds are allocated for the Information Regulator established in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013.”
The Defence ENE also notes the “recent” Defence Review provides the long term policy for South Africa’s defence trajectory over the next 20 to 30 years.
“The focus of the Review is maintaining a balanced, flexible and modern force that uses advanced technology in response to emerging threats and the changing nature of defence functions globally. It proposes five critical implementation milestones. Arresting the decline in critical capabilities through immediate and directed interventions in the first milestone and is a focus for the medium term.”
The DoD will be replacing the current infantry combat vehicle, develop a mobile water provisioning system, develop a mass field feeding system as well as develop new generation personal equipment for soldiers and a new anti-aircraft command centre.
This is seen in the just on 15% increase over the medium term in spending on the Infantry Capability sub-programme, part of Landward Defence, as well as a 19.7% increase in the Air Defence Artillery Capability sub-programme.
Landward Defence is the single largest programme in the DoD and accounts for an annual average spend of 34.1% of the total medium term budget.
In the Maritime Defence programme, provision is made for replacing the SA Navy’s hydrographic vessel, SAS Protea, in the current financial cycle.
The maritime arm of the SANDF will, according to the ENE, have a heavyweight torpedo capability by 2022/23 and acquisition of offshore patrol vessels will be completed by 2024/25.