Navy short of ships

2013-08-22 21:06

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.

  • Godfrey Welman - 2013-08-22 21:26

    Higgs, stop now you are cracking me up.

      Clive Toerien - 2013-08-22 23:06

      The man is actually speaking the truth, but I guess it does not take much to crack up that one brain cell in your head.

      Teevee Gupta - 2013-08-23 07:36

      We nee many wessels to save us when America attacks us for our oil.

      Ian Frost - 2013-08-23 09:23

      I have met Admiral Higgs, and through working at the Simons Town Naval yard many of the naval staff operating the Frigates. The purchase of the new Frigates has been good for the country and needed, and the exposure the staff there get is wonderful. The problem is that we bought the wrong type of vessels, to big and to complex for our needs. If we had bought smaller Corvettes, we could possibly have got 5 ships for the price of four. More to the point, the commission should not be about us needing new arms which we did, but about the skimming of the top by people in power. ( Plus 1 more ship for that event ) That would mean we could have had 6 ships, and the good Admiral would have been happy, having two extra ships. This commission is a farce! Nobody is going to get caught, nothing will be done, just more money spent..........................

      Matthew Peter John Wilke - 2013-08-23 11:46

      Atheitis - What small, strike craft in the past are you talking about? The SAS Paul Kruger (a frigate), SAS Tafelberg (a tanker) and numerous others? You talk such rubbish on all these forums. Education? Mate, you need to get educated.

      Ian Frost - 2013-08-23 12:37

      #matt - The Warrior class strike craft were in service with the South African Navy. A contract was signed with Israeli Military Industries for the construction of three of the modified Reshef class vessels at the Haifa facility of Israeli Shipyards. A further three were built immediately after at the Sandock Austral shipyard in Durban, South Africa, with three more being built at the same facility several years later. In Fact 2 are still being used and have now been sent for Pirate duties

  • Patricia Dewet - 2013-08-22 21:27

    Do you have the crew, first fix all the broken ships then ask for more. People in the navy cannot even swim.

      jerhone - 2013-08-23 08:00

      even their admiral glug glug glug, me thinks mr.Higgs should fight for funds for water wings for the navy

      Darren Roderick Kirsten - 2013-08-23 08:11

      My dad can swim fine thanks!

      Matthew Peter John Wilke - 2013-08-23 11:56

      More rubbish - New recruits who can't swim are immediately taught how to when they are on the MSDS (as basics is now called) in Saldahna.

      Darren Roderick Kirsten - 2013-08-23 12:53

      news 24 readers, dont know anything out side there little bubbles,my dad has been in the defence force for 28years, and he swims fine, so does all his co-workers. he also server on the SAS Outeniqua as a weapon artizen. i had to laugh wen she said they cant swim.

  • Whatalotigot Smarties - 2013-08-22 21:31

    We don't have the ships because we don't have the money. All the money needed to protect the country borders was used at Nkandla to protect the President. As long as the President is safe. The other 60 million citizen's safety does not matter to the ANC.

      Michael Kleber - 2013-08-23 07:30

      If the poo hits the fan everybody head for nkandla , you will be safe there and we all paid for it

  • OhSnap - 2013-08-22 21:32

    I swear ZimBOBwe can invade us !!!

      Steven Pieters - 2013-08-22 23:25

      Yes with Zim's navy we stand no chance. Let's just surrender to Bob NOW !!!

      Michael Kleber - 2013-08-23 07:31

      they already have , 3 million of them

  • Frans Van Der Merwe - 2013-08-22 21:44

    How unlikely it may seem today war can happen at anytime. Even Plato stated a few thousand years ago " if you want peace, prepare for war" . You can't get battle ready in a few months, it takes years of ongoing planning. The government are making a few mistakes, using the defence force for job creation instead of security, over emphasis on equality and not capability, and not spending sufficient funds. [ 2% of GDP] The SANDF is like health insurance, hopefully never needed but damn necessary when the need occurs. I have been to 2 war zones, if you don't win a war you don't come second you lose, and I mean you loose everything!

      Adrian Arendse - 2013-08-23 06:39

      With the enemy in power, what other enemy threads are there? They are there own biggest threat!

  • Nico de Jongh - 2013-08-22 22:38

    This time Zuma will have businesses set up before any dealings to 'make legal' previous improper loopholes.

  • Alan Colquhoun - 2013-08-22 23:08

    How can you say the expenditure was justified when half of them are now mothballed. What is worse,because they are mothballed the pilots/drivers will not be able to maintain their licences so in 2 years time we will have nobody to drive them anyway. Yes go and buy some more. If we are attacked by Zimbabwe we can defend ourselves from the back of bakkies, if we are attacked by USA or Russia we don't stand a chance anyway. Either way we do not need the stuff

      jerhone - 2013-08-23 08:20

      don't forget our witchdoctors they will make us immune to bullets and our ancestor's will rise up and fight the invaders, if all else fails we have a secret weapon, a group of eunics from the Eastern Cape who aren't afraid of knifes and can take a bullet in the groin and still fight on

  • Adrian Arendse - 2013-08-23 06:47

    Seriti is most probably on of zuma's drinking partners, we cannot expect to much of this commission. At least Zuma will come clear. What a bloody joke.

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