By Staff Reporters

South Africa’s military capacity has suffered serious injuries as a result of the country’s misfiring economy.
The Constitution, on Section 200(2), decrees that the mandate of the military is to defend and protect the country, its territorial integrity and its people, in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law. The minister said that given continued budget cuts, there was a widening gap between what the SANDF was expected to achieve and the resources it was provided with to do its job. The army is hard-pressed to respond to critical events due to a severe shortage of resources, she said.
“Our inability to maintain, repair and overhaul our ageing fleets of combat equipment simply adds to our already dire block: the obsolescence of our prime mission equipment. The SANDF is being spread so thin.” Southern African leaders want a more permanent military deployment to Mozambique’s insurgency-hit Cabo Delgado region instead of renewing the mandate of armed forces every three months.
South Africa has already poured billions of rands into the mission since July last year amid a surge of terror attacks. Modise also warned that army may not be able, in some instances, to assist in future catastrophes that may hit the country. “We wish to inform this house that the SANDF will be hard-pressed to respond to critical events in other provinces should the need arise. I state this with a heavy heart – we are willing, but lack resources,” Modise said. Defence force members have been deployed to help police during the Covid-19 pandemic, in the Vaal River clean-up and with health services in the North West. They are still involved in providing relief in flood-stricken KwaZulu-Natal. The minister said the defence force will need to reprioritise and replan.

“The decline in defence capabilities forces us to look at prioritising all activities for better efficiency in the quest to achieve our constitutional mandate. “We must apply the principles of minimising, prioritising, right-sizing and optimising to all aspects of the defence organisation. “To this end, I require the Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the National Defence Force to review the budget allocation to all budget holders and reassign funding against priorities identified, including a zero-based budgeting system, if so required,” she said. Modise maintained that they will continue the reduction of personnel to the compensation for employees ceiling allocated, as well as the sustained rejuvenation of the personnel compliment. She said the army will also conduct cost-saving interventions to achieve value, especially in the procurement system. “The National Defence Force is highly dependent on a healthy and sovereign indigenous local defence industry. One cannot ignore the desperate plight of the defence and the defence-related Industry.
“This Sector has historically delivered an excellent return on government investment, is currently not only a mainstream industrial manufacturing and development role-player, but is also key to the sovereignty of South Africa and the deep-level support required by the National Defence Force,” said Modise.
The minister also announced that the defence force was finalising pension payout for military veterans outstanding since 2011. “During this current financial year, 2022/2023, we intend rolling out what is an important benefit which will alleviate the plight of the military veterans. This is the military veterans’ pension as stipulated in the Military Veterans’ Act of 2011,” she said. “We are finalising the administrative rollout and will later announce the commencement date as well as the military veterans’ pension quantum soon.” This compels the Department of Defence to provide, manage, prepare and employ defence capabilities proportionate with the needs of South Africa as regulated by the Constitution, national legislation, parliamentary and executive direction. This must be provided through proper management, provision, preparedness and employment of defence capabilities, which are in line with the domestic and global needs of South Africa. With South Africa’s economy misfiring from all cylinders, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is unable to fulfil the aforementioned constitutional mandate. There is a crisis. Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise made a chilling warning during her departmental budget vote speech. She said the worsening performance of the country’s economy has placed considerable pressure on the government and households. This, she said, was making it difficult for government to adequately meet all competing needs. The army is spread way too thin and this means there is fertile ground for more instability in the country.
She said there was no doubt there is a widening dichotomy between what the SANDF is expected to achieve, and the resources provided to fulfil those expectations. “It is becoming difficult to adequately meet all competing needs. This is fertile ground for instability. The historical downward trend in the defence allocation has not abated. It is likely to continue to the detriment of the SANDF and the demise of the defence industry,” she said. In the week that Modise warned Parliament on these dire military constraints, the African Union held a summit of heads of state on terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. This as terror attacks are on the rise in the African continent. Two months ago, the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) revealed that there was an increase in terror attacks in Africa. The Index highlights that terrorism remains a serious threat, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 48% of total global deaths from terrorism. Four of the 10 countries with the largest increases in deaths from terrorism were also in sub-Saharan Africa: Niger, Mali, the DRC and Burkina Faso. Closer to home, in Cabo Delgardo in neighbouring Mozambique, terror attacks spiked in recent weeks ahead of Modise’s spine-chilling warning to the nation about its failing military capacity. Modise told Parliament that the SANDF may soon be unable to assist in peace-keeping missions because these deployments put it under great pressure. Also, it was often not reimbursed and that supplies of crucial equipment were critically low. “Defence planning has become primarily a budget-driven affair as opposed to a mandate-driven one. This means that our ability to deliver on our constitutional mandate ultimately compromises the successful conducting of military strategic missions in a sustainable manner,” Modise said.

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