The South African National Defence Force (SANDF), which should be saving lives, is becoming an “armed welfare service which is saving jobs,” according to the Democratic Alliance, which was reacting to defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s budget speech yesterday.
Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliamentarians they have to apply their minds to assist in righting the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) when she introduced her budget vote this week by ensuring the Defence Review had their full support.
That the country’s military is not well was also stressed by opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier, who told the house the SANDF was “in deep trouble”.
Responding to the Minister, the former submariner said it was not in fact a defence budget vote debate – “It is political farce dressed up as debate. We know very little about what is really going on in the SANDF”.
As an example he said to date Parliament had still not been briefed on South Africa’s involvement in the UN Mission in the DRC.
“We are spending too much on personnel, we are spending too little on operations and we are spending much too little on capital acquisition,” Maynier said. This was evidenced by more than half the defence budget (R20.4 billion) going to personnel costs.
He was also critical of the Defence Review calling it a review of defence policy that will allow Mapisa-Nqakula to “scramble to identify quick wins which can be implemented at little or no cost to the SANDF”.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said further efforts should be made to cut back on “the bloated bureaucracy and lack of professionalism” in the SANDF to improve conditions of service and equipment for South Africa’s soldiers.
Freedom Front Plus (FF+) defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald said in his response to the Minister that years of insufficient budgeting had reduced the SANDF to a “border guard good enough only for patrols”.
This he put squarely at government’s door saying it did not have the political will to make the necessary funds available so that the SANDF could do its job properly.