SANDF still badly underfunded – Romer-Heitman


The South African military is “not some form of silly putty that can be stretched forever – it will fail and then will be extremely costly, difficult and time-consuming to rebuild”.

This is the forthright comment of defence analyst Helmoed Romer-Heitman after a hard look at the defence section of the national budget.

He concedes there are four plusses for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) from the budget presented by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

These are: a slight increase in the defence budget, “some funding” for Project Hoefyster as well as for maritime surveillance aircraft and offshore patrol vessels in the medium term expenditure framework.

On the debit side of the ledger he notes, “The budget does not meet the requirement of the SANDF to execute current missions and undo the damage of two decades of under-funding. It remains badly under-funded for what it is expected to do.
“The SANDF remains on track to either quietly unravel (if we are lucky), to ‘crash and burn’ if faced with a major operational challenge or (if we are really unlucky) to just suddenly fall apart as it bottoms.
“There seems to be no understanding at all of the simple fact that if we want to be taken seriously in the region we must pay our dues and that will require a stronger SANDF.”

He also points out the South African Air Force is in “deep trouble” with a cut in operational flying hours to 6 500. “This could be the final straw in closing it down as an air force.”

Similarly the cut in sea days for the Navy and a cut in strength for the landward arm of the SANDF are, “sad, potentially dangerous and, in the case of the Army, ludicrous. The Army should be expanding to meet current commitments, not even thinking of new ones and should not be cutting 2 900 posts.”

In conclusion he said that, “Government does not understand the link between its posturing as a regional power and the inadequate and disintegrating instrument of power it relies on”.