The Ceasefire Campaign has called on South Africans to resist further defence spending as advocated by the Defence Review, during the annual Global Day of Action on Military Spending.
Ceasefire said that South Africa’s allocations to defence spending appear low in comparison to amounts allocated to education, social services, health and other more pressing needs. “However, this does not take into account the ongoing costs of the arms procurement deal of 1999 for which we are still paying and which is currently the subject of a commission of inquiry. The debt is owed by the Department of Finance not Defence, and therefore the amounts are excluded from Defence figures.
“It is a critical time for South Africa’s new democracy as we face an election 20 years down the line. Constant dissatisfaction with the pace of delivery to the poor and continued inequality will be foremost in the minds of the electorate as they go to the polls.
“We acknowledge that the democratic government when it came to power in 1994 was faced with a colossal challenge to right the wrongs brought about through the despicable and inequitable system of apartheid. Notwithstanding this, South Africa would have been in a more satisfactory situation today if government had steered clear of the ill-fated arms procurement deal in its early years,” Ceasefire said in a statement earlier this week.
Ceasefire said that, according to National Treasury, in evidence given at the Commission of Inquiry into the deal, the 1999 arms deal cost R46.666-billion, financed with loans from foreign banks, with loan costs totalling R51.3-billion. “However, it is believed that this is understated and is probably more in the region of R70 billion or more but no-one really knows the real cost. Revealingly, the more than 500 pages of documents released by Treasury were called back a few days later on the spurious explanation that they were classified.
“Now it seems that we have learnt nothing from that early experience. Cabinet has approved a defence review document compiled by people intent on increasing military spending and who use every opportunity in forums and the media to argue that the armed forces are in decline and South Africa needs to increase its defence spending.
“The defence review, and argued strenuously by committee member and unabashed militarist Helmoed Heitman, proposes an increase in military spending that will ultimately reach 2.4% of GDP. Often touted by those who stand to gain financially by increased expenditure as an appropriate level approved by the World Bank and IMF, the 2% benchmark has never been advocated by these institutions. It is rather seen as a warning that the economic wheels are likely to fall off if a country exceeds 2% of GDP over an extended period. We fear the Defence Review 2012 pushes the increase to double the opportunities to fleece the taxpayers and for corruption. Apartheid South Africa bankrupted itself because of excessive military spending, hence the debt standstill in 1985. Post-apartheid South Africa continues to be overly committed to military spending in contradiction to the clear commitment to human security contained in section 198 (1) of the Constitution regarding the principles guiding national security.”
The Ceasefire Campaign said that the South African Air Force’s Gripen fighter jets are in rotational storage because the Air Force doesn’t have the pilots to fly them, the mechanics to maintain them or even the money to fuel them.
“Pilots have abandoned the SAAF for higher pay with commercial airlines, plus they do not get enough flying time to maintain their proficiencies. The frigates and submarines rarely leave Simonstown, and one of the subs has been on the hard since 2007 for “routine maintenance” since the wrong power supply was connected to the batteries and blew the entire electrical system. Despite that reality, the defence review advocates buying more frigates.
“Hopefully the public will become more aware of the downside of the recommendations of the latest defence review when it reaches Parliament and insist that further outlay on the military and arms will not be in their name,” the Ceasefire Campaign said.
Meanwhile, on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending, the United Nations called on governments to boost transparency and cut military expenditures, and increase investments in nutrition, health, environmental protection and other major sustainable development challenges.
“Every democracy must involve civil society in the process of establishing budgets, and all sectors of society must be consulted to determine what the real priorities of the population are,” Special Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas said in a statement. “Lobbies, including military contractors and other representatives of the military-industrial complex, must not be allowed to hijack these priorities to the detriment of the population’s real needs.”
The expert urged world parliaments to implement the will of the people, based on representative opinion polling, and significantly reduce all military expenditures (arms production, military research, military bases abroad, surveillance of private citizens, ‘intelligence’-gathering, or overt and covert military operations).
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military spending levels are at an all-time high, reaching a total of $1.75 trillion in 2012.