No money to modernise current SANDF equipment, Parliament hears

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Houston, we have a problem: SANDF doesn't have enough money to modernise its equipment.
Houston, we have a problem: SANDF doesn't have enough money to modernise its equipment.
Roger Sedrus/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • There is no money to fund the modernisation of the South African National Defence Force's current equipment.
  • The Department of Defence's actual "strength" at 30 June was 73 595, which was below the planned average "strength" of 75 227.
  • Officials briefed Parliament on Wednesday.

Government has no money available to modernise the current equipment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and, on top of that, budget cuts have slashed the force's capabilities.

Newly appointed secretary of defence Sonto Kudjoe said the challenges within the SANDF were being dealt with despite the constrained financial environment.

Kudjoe and senior military officials on Wednesday briefed Parliament's portfolio committee on defence and military veterans during a virtual sitting on Wednesday.

"The Department of Defence (DOD) required an average human resources (HR) strength of 77 000. In order to assure a more sustainable defence capability, an average HR strength of 75 000 will be maintained during 2020-21 financial year, supplemented by 2 695 963 planned Reserve Force members," she said.

READ | South Africa assessing border with terrorism-struck neighbour Mozambique

Kudjoe said the shortage of employees would result in a projected shortfall of R3.017 billion on the "cost of employees" budget for 2020-2021.


"The DOD's actual strength at 30 June (2020) was 73 595, which was below the planned average strength of 75 227 for June."

In March, the department requested National Treasury to increase the compensation of the employees' budget limit by R2.625 billion in 2019-2020.

Treasury indicated that the request from the DOD was not supported, Kudjoe said. 

"The department received an additional allocation via the 2020 Special Adjustment Budget of R763.4 million in support of its Covid-19 response. This allocation is specifically and exclusively appropriated and is aligned to the expenditure in terms of allowances paid and projected payments. It is projected that the funded HR strength will continue to decrease due to higher than anticipated attrition within the department," she said.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced in his special adjustments budget in June that the defence special budget allocation to curb Covid-19 was R3 billion.

READ HERE | Why budget cuts will negatively impact the SANDF's operations

During the debate on her budget speech, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said as of 15 July "financial authorities" were issued for R1.7 billion, of which R906 million had been paid.


DA MP Kobus Marais said a complete overhaul of the SANDF was needed.

"What the SANDF and National Treasury should enforce is the total restructure of the SANDF from the old SADF structures to a SANDF capable to overcome the new and modern defence and military challenges with modern means and equipment.

"We must improve our border protection on land, at sea and in the air. The focus must be on an infantry dominant army, with a South African Air Force and South African Navy to secure our national integrity and safety of our people," he said.

Marais said the SANDF should invest more in technology.

"We must secure 24/7 border surveillance via cyber and satellite technology and use our defence resources as an immediate reactionary force to capture unwanted and illegal movement of people and goods. We need to reduce our reliance on a total workforce of 75 000 and rather increase our infantry beyond the 20 000, and rely more on reserve force units," he said.

Committee chairperson Cyril Xaba called on the department to remain within its spending framework.

"Things are tough in the country and we really need to bite our teeth," he said.

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