President Jacob Zuma, Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has assured Parliament “all forces deployed internally and externally are mission ready in terms of both training and equipment”.
This was part of a written response to a question posed by United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, a former general in the then Transkei Defence Force.
The President also told Holomisa the SANDF “has memoranda of understanding with other armed forces on the African continent, in line with the policies of our government and our continental and international obligations. Military training opportunities are exchanged between these friendly forces on a continuous basis”.
The “forces deployed” internally and externally currently stand at around the 6 000 mark, SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo said last month.
This is made up of more than two thousand on continental peacekeeping duties, a similar number deployed along South Africa’s borders on Operation Corona, the border protection tasking assigned to the SANDF by Cabinet and about 340 assisting police in Operation Fiela.
All told the landward force is working with 18 000 troops either deployed, being prepared for deployment or returning from deployments.
“At the apex of the SA Army’s mandate is the provision of combat-ready forces for the SANDF to deploy on continental missions in support of peace and security as well as ensuring our borders are secure, curbing the influx of illicit goods and undocumented persons into our country,” Masondo told a briefing at the Army College in Thaba Tshwane.
The South African contribution to the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) is now also juts about combat ready. Masondo said the SANDF contingent will be about 1 800 strong from all four arms of service when and if ACIRC is called on to deploy.
“The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans indicated during her budget vote this year that the SANDF’s pledged forces will reach interim operational capacity by September 30 with full operational capacity by November 30. As custodian of force preparation and provision, the SA Army is ready to ensure this force eventually attains full operational capacity,” he told the Thaba Tshwane briefing.
Masondo also said that “the SANDF has not enjoyed the level of funding it should especially be given to tasks assigned to it. We are, however, even under the current situation of austere measures, meeting our objectives of training and providing combat-ready forces that are proudly representing our peace-keeping, peace-building and peace-enforcement obligations across the continent.”
Defence expert and Defence Review committee member Helmoed Romer Heitman has warned that without proper funding, the SANDF is headed for disaster. He said that what the Defence Force is actually doing today is unaffordable, “which is why it is – and has been since 1989 – in effect eating itself and is headed for implosion if there is not an adjustment to either the funding levels or the country’s ambitions or both.”
Last year Sam Makhudu Gulube, Secretary for Defence and Military Veterans, told Parliament that, “for the Department to execute its primary objective, it needs to be, at the very minimum, sufficiently resourced. In reality there is a persistent disconnect between the defence funding, growing defence commitments and resource allocation to the point where the Defence Force is unable to fully fulfil its constitutional responsibilities and it is hard pressed to continue and maintain its current level of commitments.”
In May Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament the misalignment between resources and commitments was “mainly responsible for the decline we have to arrest and reverse” and said defence budget that is two percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is needed to allow the South African military to properly execute all the tasks assigned it.
The 2014 Defence Review aims to arrest the decline of the SANDF but its delay in being approved by Parliament means the current financial year will be devoted to planning with implementation only starting in the 2016/17 financial year and beyond.