SANDF to remain in austere mode until funding flow improves

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After three ministers of defence and military veterans, the 2012 South African Defence review, renamed in 2015 and approved by the National Assembly (NA), National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and Cabinet, remains a work in progress hamstrung by a lack of funding.

This is made clear in the 2024 Department of Defence (DoD) Annual Performance Plan (APP) for the current calendar year which notes, among others, interventions and deliverables remain dependent on “consistent improvement in the defence baseline funding allocation”. On implementation the APP has it a sustainable defence policy option would need 1.8% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2014 Rand terms. Today, defence spending accounts for about .8% of GDP.

The revised 2024 Annual Performance Plan maps out five strategic planning milestones it sees as foundations to develop resourced defence capabilities via a DoD “extended long term defence development plan”.

To date only the first milestone – the situation in the DoD as of 2017 – has been reached with number two – arresting the decline in critical capabilities through immediate and direct interventions – remaining dependent on “consistent improvement” in funding ex National Treasury (NT).

As far as Defence Review work packages are concerned one and two are ticked off. They go about organisational and efficiency interventions and “functional strategic intents, strategies and plans”. Work package one also had to explore “possible” additional funding to assist implementation of Defence Review recommendations.

Work package three – capital interventions, priority support systems to ensure current operational force levels can be maintained – will not work without funding and work package four – capital interventions for priority capabilities – is in the same boat. The APP has it “the SANDF (SA National Defence Force) will not be able to increase force levels to the required level if the deliverables are not funded”. It gives the border safeguarding tasking Operation Corona as an example, pointing out the number of “landward sub-units” (companies) will not be increased from the current 15 to 22 a year as envisaged.

“Deliverables” to keep South Africa’s defence capabilities properly maintained and in good working order is a necessity for work package five. If it isn’t funded, the APP has it, the SANDF will not be able to maintain the required core conventional capabilities.

More nails in the coffin follow.

One has it due to “RSA fiscal challenges” and declining year-on-year defence baseline allocations, it hasn’t been possible to implement the plan to arrest the decline in and of the SANDF. “Not only has the fiscal allocation not realised, the year-on-year reductions have exacerbated the defence decline resulting in cost-driven and non-cost interventions not being realised and/or compromised”.

“Envisaged implementation of the 2015 Defence Review during the current 2019-2024 MTSF (medium term strategic framework) and 2024/25 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) remains predominantly unachievable, within the context of marginal progressive allocations to the defence baseline during this period.”

“Hence, during the 2024/25 MTEF, the execution of the resourced defence mandate will be pursued through the execution of prioritised sustainable missions whilst providing value to the people of South Africa as a Developmental State,” the APP stated.

Continentally, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration has committed the SANDF to three missions, the newest being SAMIDRC (Southern African Development Community Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo). SA military personnel and equipment are presently in Mozambique, where Operation Vikela is part of SAMIM (Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique), due to end in July with the third deployment in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the United Nations mission MONUSCO due to end in December.

Some good news from the APP is that, “during the period of this Plan, the department, in support of the Executive Authority, and in consultation with identified stakeholders and the National Executive, will consider an evaluation and revision of the SA Defence Review 2015 in the context of current fiscal realities, with a supporting action plan that will inform a sustainable and resourced defence strategic trajectory, force generation guidelines and a defence industry policy and strategy.”