The extent to which the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) ability to properly execute tasks assigned it is regularly impeded by the diminishing defence budget notwithstanding stout efforts by the military.
This was again highlighted this week by the chief executive of the country’s representative defence industry association, Simphiwe Hamilton.
Speaking during an Aerospace Africa and Defence (AAD) exhibition briefing at AFB Waterkloof, he used the example of the border protection tasking – Operation Corona – to show how poorly the national defence force is treated by those holding the country’s purse strings.
“When the SANDF took over border protection from the SA Police Service, which had a budget to do the job, that budget left with the police,” he said, adding the SANDF did not receive any additional funding from National Treasury for border protection.
This lack of additional funding for the Department of Defence has seen the number of companies deployed on border protection remain stagnant at 15 for the past two financial years. All indications are this situation will persist for at least another three to four years as defence takes a distant backseat to other government priorities led by social services.
If funding was made available the SANDF plan to have 22 companies deployed at any one time on land border protection would have become a reality in the 2011/12 financial year.
Similarly the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative against piracy in the Mozambique Channel – Operation Copper – has also found itself on the wrong side of the ledger. What was supposed to be a 24/7/365 operation involving the SA Navy and SA Air Force has now become a three to four week naval deployment with signal intelligence taking over from the Mark One eyeballs of sailors and aircrew.