Navy short of ships

2013-08-22 21:06
SAS Amatola (SA Navy)

SAS Amatola (SA Navy)

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Pretoria - The SA Navy is not adequately equipped, despite the multi-billion rand arms deal, the Seriti Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

More vessels should be added to the national fleet, which currently includes four frigates and three submarines, Rear Admiral Robert Higgs said on his second day on the witness stand at the commission, sitting in Pretoria.

"In my judgement, the SA Navy needs more. It is often much better and cost-effective to buy new. The best deal for us would be to build local as [much] as possible. That would help stimulate the economy.

"I would say that [the current fleet] is exceedingly modest... Yes, we do need more."

Higgs said navy ships were not primarily used for war, and had been deployed in several humanitarian missions, raising South Africa’s international relations profile.

Evidence leader Simmy Lebala asked Higgs whether other African countries had submarines and frigates. He asked the admiral to explain how the current South African warships were being used.

"Why do we have to behave like superpowers, given our limitations? The history of our country, socio-economic factors, surroundings, and the background inform us that our priorities are health, houses, feeding the poor, HIV and Aids," Lebala said.

"Still, you want us to employ the military resources that we have on equating us to superpowers. Why can’t we be superpowers in our own right by focusing on economic issues?"

Higgs replied that the regular conflicts on the African continent were a clarion call for action.

"We end up with lots of other players being the players in our continent. I think we have done very well with what we have and with much more capability we could be in a position to help shape events on our continent, together with our African partners," he said.

African solution to African issues

"We could be part of an African solution to African issues. It is much better for South Africa to play a meaningful role in our continent than to leave that open to people from outside the continent because we don’t have the capability."

Higgs said all countries with permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council had numerous submarines and frigates.

Focusing on the continent, Higgs said no other country in sub-Saharan Africa had submarines. Nigeria had "a significant-sized frigate vessel" and Egypt had submarines.

Earlier, Lebala asked Higgs about the rationale of buying high-tech military hardware in an African country riddled with socio-economic problems.

Higgs said South Africa was capable of balancing its needs perfectly.

"Chair, I believe South Africa can walk and chew gum at the same time. We are capable of doing both and it comes to balance. It's a matter of looking at it and being smart," he said.

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission, chaired by Judge Willie Seriti, in 2011 to investigate alleged corruption in the 1999 multi-billion rand arms deal.

Read more on:    willie seriti  |  arms deal

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