'It's not a funky chicken jive out there' - SA army chief slams budget cuts as 'dangerous'

Budget cuts at the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) could result in a lack of proper training for those who should be equipped to protect the country, the SA army chief has warned.

General Lindile Yam was speaking at a media briefing in Thaba Tshwane on Thursday, where he warned: "There is a danger coming and it seems like no one is seeing it."

He stopped reading his prepared speech and warned the nation about the consequences of several budget cuts the defence force has had in the last two years.

And he cautioned that when the military doesn't receive the necessary funding, it cannot fulfil its constitutional mandate to fully protect the country.

Although SA is not engaged in active war with another country, Yam explained that the military still needed to be ready through training, equipment and ammunition.

Easiest target

Currently, para-troops can't be trained properly, he said, adding that the military has even had to hire planes to transport troops, because of budgetary constraints.

According to Yam, the army was the easiest target for budget cuts and received less than 1% of the GDP, compared to the international norm of 2% of the GDP.

"I am telling you, with a 1.9%, we could keep up and say we are somehow going to keep [the] credibility of a potential war force that also takes [its] responsibilities in the defence of the Constitution of the country."

"I'm sorry, South Africans think again. This is how far we have gone and this is how far you have put your military."

With that said, Yam promised that the army would not sit idly if South Africa and its people were threatened.

"I want to warn you, this thing of the war, we prepare for it every day through training, through intelligence processes," said Yam.

"We will never sit idle, even if we have to walk on foot to be there.

"We want to make sure that when you say to us: 'Stop the nonsense,' we will go, but we will bleed and you must know it. But at no stage will we defy this nation. You put us in a uniform for a purpose and we will fight if it has got to happen. But we will bleed more and I am not sure that is what you want.

"We will not be able to build the army at that time, because it will be too late at that time."

Other threats

Yam also spoke about other threats that the country faced for which the military needed to be equipped.

"If thousands of illegal immigrants are entering your country and there are also some terrorist type of fake attacks in your country... you are still talking about peace time."

He said that there was a shortage of mobility on South Africa's borders and that people were constantly trying to bring in contraband and merchandise that weren't tested or taxed and which would affect the GDP if not stopped from entering the country.

In addition, if the borders were not properly protected, it could open up space for dangerous groups to enter and mobilise in the country.

Is your space protected?' Are your seas protected?

"Do you want the cells of terrorists to converge in this country, organise themselves until they are fully ready?"

"You need to ask yourself: 'Is your space protected?' Are your seas protected?

"It's not a funky chicken jive out there, we are dealing with small irons that can break and kill human bones."

Yam added that there would always be a need to be active in Africa as South Africa's "backyard". If lines of communication and lines of trade were not secure, the country could not be stable and could end up in a situation where a citizen would pay R250 for a loaf of bread, he claimed.

In his speech, Yam said they have had several successes in border control in the last six months.

This included apprehending 13 320 undocumented travellers and seizing 221 illegal weapons. In addition, 230 stolen vehicles were recovered and contraband totalling more than R4m was confiscated.

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