The South African National Defence Force’s 1999 Strategic Defence Package (SDP) will be costing the taxpayer R55.086 billion, nearly double as much as the initial R30 billion at the time which the contracts had been concluded, a Freedom Front Plus (FF+) MP says. But the answer to a parliamentary question that triggered the charges, notes a lesser figure.
“The arms contract now costs nearly R25 billion more than what had been foreseen and could still increase further,” said FF+ chief spokesman on defence Pieter Groenewald. “That in itself is very disconcerting but what is more worrying is that South Africa is sitting with billions worth of new weaponry but does not have the manpower capabilities to utilise it fully operationally.
“Highly sophisticated weaponry such as the Gripen fighter jets were purchased but there is no money available to allow existing fighter jets to be airborne and pilots are leaving the air force,” Groenewald said in a statement. “We purchased submarines, but only one is operational and one has been in the dry docks since 2006 for maintenance until 2013. It is clear that the public was not fully informed about the final costs of the purchasing programme and is not receiving value for its taxes,” he said.
Groenewald was commenting on a written answer by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu, who said the cost of the SDP was R 42 362 053 814. In addition to this amount, she added interest on an Arms Procurement Loan Facility (APLF) “so far amounted to R 7 860 569 013”, amounting to R50 222 622 827.
The total ceiling approved by the National Treasury for the SDP – excluding the APLF is R47 225 627 631, Sisulu said. In August 2008 her predecessor, Mosiuoa Lekota, said the contract price was R30.049 billion (in 1998 Rand) and was expected to climb to R43.828 billion, based on projected fluctuations in rate of exchange at the time.
The SDP saw SA gain four sophisticated German-built Meko A200SAN frigates, three state-of-the-art Type 209 MOD1400 submarines (also German-built), 26 Swedish generation 4.5 Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, 24 British-built BAE Systems Mk120 fighter trainers and 30 Italian-built AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters.