SANDF’s main tasks are border protection and peacekeeping – Review Committee

4386

The South African National Defence Force’s main duties are currently sea and land border protection and peacekeeping on the African continent, according to Roelf Meyer, Chair of the 2012 Defence Review Committee.

He said that with regard to peacekeeping duties, at the moment the SANDF’s peacekeeping deployments are restricted due to funding issues. The first defence review took a conservative approach to peace missions, with the anticipation that no more than a battalion would be deployed at a time. Experience has proved this anticipation wrong, and this is being addressed in the 2012 Defence Review.

With regard to border protection, Meyer said the SANDF will be involved in that mission indefinitely. “As far as the foreseeable future is concerned we think border security will be in our mandate,” he told defenceWeb during an interview today.

Chapter 6 of the Review, which looks at the defence force’s mandate, identifies five main goals, including:
– The defence and protection of South Africa, its people and important national interests.
– The safeguarding of South Africa and its people through aspects such as border safeguarding, supporting the police service and fulfilling South Africa’s treaty obligations.
– The defence contribution to South Africa’s international agenda and the promotion of regional and continental peace and stability.
– Supporting civil authority in times of crisis, need or turmoil, and the Defence contribution to South Africa’s developmental priorities.
– The civil control over defence and the accountable utilisation of defence resources.

Although the defence review calls for the SANDF to assist other government departments, such as the police, in special circumstances, Meyer said the defence force is only to be deployed in time of crisis and only if mandated to do so. For instance, the SANDF often provides essential flood relief and firefighting assistance.

The 2012 Defence Review covers several areas, including the constitutional mandate, South Africa’s international obligations and work that government expects the defence force to do. The core of the Review gives the scope and assumptions of the defence force up to the next 30 years. Meyer said the purpose of the Review was to establish a set of defence force goals, which will inform its budgetary requirements. The Minister of Defence will then base her budget argument on those needs.

The first defence review of 1998 had a narrow, transformation focus in the wake of the transition to democracy. Meyer highlighted the need for the new Review by pointing to the issue of piracy, which was not an issue five years ago, but is very much an issue today. Other emerging areas that need to be focused on include cyberwarfare and urban terrorism – Meyer would like to see a special forces unit established for counter-terrorism duties.

Meyer said one of the most important aspects of the review was getting consensus with the SANDF in understanding what it is required to do. “We want to put forward a document that has reached consensus with all South Africans,” he said.” Consequently, a number of consultation events are being conducted in the period leading up to the Minister’s Budget Vote on May 17. The Defence Review Committee is now holding provincial forums and stakeholder engagements until the end of June 2012 throughout South Africa. Two public participation imbizos have been conducted so far: one in KwaZulu-Natal and the other in Potchefstroom.

Public engagement continues to the end of June, followed by the preparation of the final document (July to August) and the formal approval process (August to September).

As far as the local defence industry is concerned, Meyer said the Committee has made recommendations and has met with those concerned, such as Denel, Armscor and the rest of industry and the Committee is continuing the consultation process. “The defence industry can be a significant contributor to GDP,” he said, emphasising the contribution local industry has made in the past and its potential to do so.

Having a strong local defence industry leads to job creation, keeps expenditure within South Africa, offers the possibility of foreign exports and allows for the development of optimised equipment. Meyer noted that the domestic defence industry can advance technology and generate positive spinoffs for the civil sector.