The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needs more than R50 billion to be brought back to where it should be, Chief of the SA Army Lieutenant General Lindile Yam has said.
Addressing a media briefing outside Pretoria this morning, Yam said that defence spending in South Africa as a percentage of GDP stands at less than 1% when the international norm is 2%. “With 2% we could keep our credibility as fighting force that also assists internally,” he said.
The Chief noted that although South Africa is not at war, there are many security challenges that require the SANDF’s assistance with, including border security and maritime security, with thousands of undocumented persons crossing the borders, millions of rands worth of illegal goods coming into the country and dozens of vessels illegally fishing in South African waters.
He also cautioned that across the border in Mozambique, people are being beheaded and killed by terrorists. “Do we want that to come here? We can’t sit idle….we must be ready for it.”
Yam said the SANDF “will hardly be able to defend and protect due to the budget spiral. To arrest the decline we will need around R55 billion over the next two Medium Term Expenditure Frameworks.”
However, there is no imminent sign of the defence budget increasing. Yam noted that “South Africa is in a technical recession. Like any other organisation in the country we are not immune to austerity measures which puts constraint on the day to day operations of the Army. The National Treasury budget cuts we have had over the last two years have had a negative impact on the renewal of military prime mission equipment, which led to the termination and deferment of many South African Army capital acquisition and technology acquisition projects. The Directorate Army Product Systems Management cannot support newly commissioned projects and it is therefore forced to limit the use of prime mission equipment.”
Yam said that in terms of the 2012/15 Defence Review, the South African National Defence Force is supposed to be arresting its decline, but “we are below that”. He warned that when the military is not funded, South Africa’s constitutional mandate is not being funded. “If we cannot train as we fight, there will be casualties.”
“Due to the volatile nature of the budget, the Directorate Army Product Systems Management can only give limited support to the industry; no long-term contracts can be established with the industry,” Yam said. He warned that foreign countries seldom buy equipment that the home military has not also acquired.
The delay of the Badger armoured fighting vehicle for the South African Army was highlighted. Yam said that due to challenges at Denel, delivery to the Army has been delayed by three years. He said the delay is “a real shame” as “we are postponing the security of the South African people”.
With Cuban expertise, the SANDF is refurbishing and preserving its existing vehicles under Project Thusano. Yam said that “Project Thusano is doing its best to maintain our vehicles. So far only 1 042 B vehicles and D vehicles (minibuses, forklifts, cranes and horse and trailers) were preserved.
“Project Thusano also experienced insufficient funding for spares, workshop equipment and tools and the non-availability of local industry support for manufacturing of spares. The Rand/Dollar exchange also impacts negatively on acquring spares. Operation Thusano also suffers due to lack of IT upgrades; lack of information and structure upgrades; cameras, telecommunications and internet services cannot be upgraded.
“This budget cut impacts negatively on our force preparation efforts,” Yam said. “Despite the economic turmoil in the country, the SA Army remains focussed on its objectives. We are in a process of realigning our priorities and to do more with the little we have.”