Ailing SANDF needs resuscitation

The decline of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) needs to be urgently turned around, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday (23/04/2014).

"There is thus an urgent need to comprehensively capacitate and equip the SANDF, rejuvenate and expand its human resource component and fund the operational deployments of the SANDF," she said in Pretoria.

"These and other shortcomings must be addressed to prevent the steady decline of the SANDF and the potentially disastrous consequences that could follow."

The minister was briefing reporters on the findings and recommendations of the long-awaited Defence Review, compiled by a committee of experts who scrutinised the SANDF.

She said the review committee found the mismatch in resources allocation and defence missions had over-extended caused a decline in most aspects of the SANDF's work.

"Commitments made in the past 16 years have resulted in a mismatch between what is expected from the defence force and resources allocated to it," she said.

"The decisions by government over the last 20 years to prioritise socio-economic needs that were neglected in the past resulted in the tension between the defence mandate, government expectations and resource allocation. This has impacted negatively on some of the SANDF's crucial capabilities."

South Africa's first Defence Review in 1998 had assumed that the armed forces would only deploy one battalion for external operations in Africa, but by 2006 four battalions were deployed across the continent.

Currently, there were South African battalions in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Darfur region of Sudan.

"Commitments in Africa far exceeded what was anticipated in the aftermath of the advent of democracy in 1994.

"In the SADC [Southern African Development Community] region various treaties and protocols on defence and security co-operation require the SANDF to commit troops and assets," Mapisa-Nqakula said.

In South Africa the armed forces had committed four battalions, after taking over land border patrol duties from the police.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the committee found if the current state of affairs continued, it would be costly to reverse in future, to enable the SANDF to safeguard borders, protect maritime routes, defend the nation against aggression, and conduct peace missions.

"The Defence Review states that the defence budget must meet the financial requirements that arise from the roles and missions set by government to the defence force," she said.

The latest Defence Review committee was appointed by former defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu in 2011. The review was originally scheduled to be formally approved at the end of 2012. - Sapa