Members of the SA National Defence Force. Picture:THE HERALD/LOYISO MPALANTSHANE
Members of the SA National Defence Force. Picture:THE HERALD/LOYISO MPALANTSHANE

Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has bemoaned the lack of funding for her department, saying that the current state of affairs effectively negates the 2015 defence review.

The review — an assessment finalised in 2015 that measures SA’s combat-readiness and proposes what must be done about it — found that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was in a state of severe decline that needed immediate attention.

The department oversees the SANDF, which is responsible for defending SA against external military aggression and plays a key role in peace-keeping missions in Africa. Peace-keeping is a pillar of SA’s foreign policy, with the country’s army playing a key role in stabilising the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in recent years.

The department was allocated about R50bn in the 2019/2020 financial year. Its budget allocations have been declining in real terms, a situation that is not helped by rising military personnel costs and poor financial controls. According to National Treasury documents, the special defence account, which manages the acquisition and upgrading of main weapon systems and technology for the department, will be reduced by R5bn in 2021/2022.

Responding to a question in the National Assembly from the ANC, Mapisa-Nqakula said the timeline for implementation of the 2015 defence review was based on certain milestones. These included the capacity to respond to threats, the creation of a sustainable defence force, and enhancing its capacity to defend the country.

“The achievement of these milestones is entirely dependent on the funding allocated to defence. The current funding allocation to the [department] effectively negates the defence review as a policy position and dramatically reduces the level of defence ambition that can be pursued,” the minister said.

Responding to a question from the EFF, Mapisa-Nqakula said the bulk of equipment used by the SANDF was developed and manufactured locally. In the post-apartheid era, examples of these are the systems acquired under the strategic defence package programme. She said Armscor, as the procurement agency of the SANDF, gives preference to arms and equipment from local suppliers. Furthermore, Armscor gives preference to BEE suppliers, in accordance with the recently promulgated defence sector codes.

Said Mapisa-Nqakula, “Over the past five financial years, approximately 80% of the capital budget of the SANDF was spent locally.”