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By Editorial staff

Journalist


South Africa needs a well-equipped and capable defence force

There is little or no funding available for the maintenance of vital weapons systems, never mind upgrades or replacements.


It’s almost counterintuitive to realise that, even though South Africa faces virtually no prospect of being involved in a conventional war in the short term, we still need a strong defence force. And that is something that we most certainly do not have.

Threats to national security, such as wars, normally develop over the medium and long term and Africa, as a continent, is still riven by all manner of instability, ranging from ethnic conflict to insurrections motivated by religion. A current peaceful scenario could change and leave the country vulnerable.

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But, whether we prepare to fight a conventional conflict or not, South Africa still needs a well-equipped and capable defence force to deal with cross-border crime, smuggling, illegal fishing, terrorism and the continued plunder of infrastructure, according to defence experts.

Yet, our military is gradually being ground down, through lack of money, into a shadow of what it was. Most of what is allocated in the defence budget goes on personnel costs and, particularly, on a bloated general staff.

There is little or no funding available for the maintenance of vital weapons systems, never mind upgrades or replacements.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has become another place for cadre deployment, too, and the number of capable, active, units with combat-fit personnel is shrinking.

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A major part of the SANDF mandate is “support to the civil power”, which means using military personnel and equipment in times of emergency, such as floods and other natural disasters. Without this capability, people will die.

A professional defence force could also be a provider not only of quality jobs, but also important skills training in a country where both are problematic. Another bonus for society could be the disciplined people the military generally produces.

Having a fully functioning defence force is not a luxury; in these increasingly uncertain times, it is a necessity.

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