SA army needs more cash - Sisulu
Cape Town - South Africa's military is woefully underfunded, and a lack of personnel and new equipment may hamper its peace-keeping commitments in Africa, said Lindiwe Sisulu, minister of defence, on Tuesday.
Sisulu described military spending, at about R31bn for 2010/11, as "shoestring" and insufficient for one of Africa's biggest contributors to peacekeeping forces, mainly in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The government is under enormous pressure to channel spending into health, education and policing, although the Treasury has said the defence budget will increase marginally to R36bn by 2013.
"We have 1.3% of the GDP (gross domestic product) which is woefully inadequate," Sisulu told reporters before a budget speech in Parliament.
Planes and submarines
"We do have a shoestring budget but we are not deploying a skeleton defence force. We have ageing equipment and our equipment is not very cheap," she said.
The defence force saved billions of dollars when it cancelled a $5.2bn contract in November to buy eight Airbus A400M aircraft from the European plane maker.
"We are hoping that perhaps we could re-utilise some of that which we have given up because we so desperately want to have our budget at affordable levels ... which is 2% of GDP," Sisulu said.
South Africa is still waiting for a R2.9bn repayment from Airbus which it intends using to bid for new military transporters.
Sisulu said the military would re-allocate navy money to the army, which did not benefit from a previous multi-billion dollar procurement package buying submarines and German frigates plus fighter jets and trainers from Britain and Sweden.
Hundreds of mutinous soldiers clashed with police in September over poor pay and working conditions.
According to General Godfrey Ngwenya, defence force chief, the army was in "dire straits" and operated old vehicles which compromised force capacity.
"They are an embarrassment because, as you know, we are employed externally in places... where we have a lot of breakdowns," Ngwenya said without elaborating.
South Africa will support on average about 2 000 personnel a day over the next three years to UN and AU peace missions.