Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
White Paper on Peace Mission
The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoD) briefed the Committee on its combat readiness, describing the country’s defence policy development since 1993 to date and onwards. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) mandate was to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force. The SADF ought to be structured and managed as a disciplined military force.
The DoD said the country’s borders had to be safeguarded to ensure the freedom of trade, including the free use of land, air and sea trade routes, and the safety and security of trade and transport hubs. The SANDF also bore hydrographic responsibilities in terms of international treaty obligations, which included search and rescue. However, securing South African border posts was a sizeable task. Referring to ports of entry, the DoD said that there were 730 registered airports and that ten of them were international airports. There were 53 formal land border posts and 111 sea border posts. The SANDF worked with partner states to achieve peace, security and stability in the region, creating conditions for economic growth and development and the expansion of markets in Africa.
The SANDF was faced with a defence dilemma due to an inadequate budget. In the 2016 Defence budget speech, it had been stated that it had “consistently indicated to this House that the defence allocation should be incrementally increasing towards at least 2% of GDP, yet….defence is consistently 50% under-funded, with compounding effects on our ability to conduct operations.” The budget allocation of the 2017 medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) was R47.169 billion. The reduction of budget had various implications, including a reduction in the compensation of employees, which implied that the Department of Defence ought to reduce its manpower. The reduced Military Skills Development System (MSDS) intake from January 2013 had worsened the situation, resulting in an increasing skills and knowledge gap, low morale, and a continuously ageing workforce.
Another concern was that the Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act disempowered a commander from enforcing discipline. As a solution to that challenge, the DoD had drafted the Military Discipline Bill in order to empower commanders to enforce discipline. The Bill was in a final stage of approval.
The DoD concluded its presentation by asserting that the budget allocation was insufficient to maintain an effective defence force and satisfy obligations. The SANDF could not rejuvenate itself through the MSDS to the level it had planned, due to the budget cuts. Budgetary constraints were therefore contributing negatively to the readiness of the SANDF.
Members expressed the Committee’s concern over the budgetary restraints and sought clarity on how the SANDF was operating without enough funds, whether it could become a self-sustainable entity, and whether the manpower issue could be alleviated by technological mechanisms.
Opening of meeting
The Chairperson opened by paying a tribute to Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba, who had passed away. He said that South Africa had lost a true comrade, and he wished for Castro’s soul to rest in eternal peace. He said that the meeting was supposed to have taken place behind the closed doors, and advised the presenters not to disclose any information that could jeopardise national security. Presenters should disclose only information that they thought the public should know.
Briefing by Department of Defence and Military Veterans on Combat Readiness
Maj Gen Michael Ramantswana, Chief of Military Policy, Strategy and Planning, said the aim of presentation was to provide an update on the state of readiness of the SA Bational Defence Force (SANDF). He briefly took the Committee through defence policy development since 1993 to date, and onwards. He said that section 200 of the Constitution spelt out the mandate of the SANDF, which was to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force. The SADF ought to be structured and managed as a disciplined military force. The functions of the SANDF were set out in section 227 of the Interim Constitution of 1993. Among its duties, the SANDF ought to protect the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, including airspace, islands, territorial waters, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), its extended continental shelf claims and cyberdomain.
Borders ought to be safeguarded and in so doing, the freedom of trade, including the free use of land, air and sea trade routes and the safety and security of trade and transport hubs ought to be ensured. The SANDF bore hydro-graphic responsibilities in terms of international treaty obligations. These responsibilities included search and rescue. Securing South African border posts was a sizeable task. Referring to ports of entry, he pointed out that there were 730 registered airports and that 10 of them were international airports. There were 53 formal land border posts and 111 sea border posts. The SANDF worked with partner states to achieve peace, security and stability in the region, creating conditions for economic growth and development, and the expansion of markets in Africa.
Maj Gen Ramantswana said that the SANDF was faced with a defence dilemma due to an inadequate budget. In the 2016 Defence budget speech, it had been stated that “We have consistently indicated to this House that the defence allocation should be incrementally increasing towards at least 2% of GDP, yet….defence is consistently 50% underfunded, with compounding effects on our ability to conduct operations.” He said that the budget allocation of the 2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was R47.169 billion. The reduction of budget had various implications, including a reduction in the compensation of employees, which implied that the Department of Defence (DoD) ought to reduce its manpower. A reduced Military Skills Development System (MSDS) intake from January 2013 had worsened the situation, resulting in an increased skills and knowledge gap, low morale, and a continuously ageing workforce.
Referring to military justice, he said that the Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act disempowered the commander from enforcing discipline. A commander could not handle minor disciplinary offences if the accused pleaded not guilty, but ought to refer the case to military courts. As a solution to that challenge, the DoD had drafted the Military Discipline Bill in order to empower commanders to enforce discipline. The bill was in a final stage of approval.
Maj Gen Ramantswana concluded his presentation by saying that the budget allocation was insufficient to maintain an effective defence force and satisfy obligations. The SANDF could not rejuvenate itself through the MSDS to the level it had planned due to the budget cuts. Budgetary constraints were therefore contributing negatively to the readiness of the SANDF.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) commented that the Committee had never taken the work the SANDF was doing lightly. The inadequate budget was a challenge but, on the other hand, he was happy with the progress of the Military Discipline Bill. He sought clarity on the progress of the first stage of the Defence Force Review. Referring to securing and defending South Africa, he remarked that the SANDF needed to devise an enforcement plan that would include, among other things, new technology and he thus sought clarity on the progress of that plan. Members defended the view that the SANDF should be a self-sustainable entity and therefore should not have to depend on the fiscus. Self-sustainability would be possible if the money received from deployment was directly channelled to the SANDF, and certain properties of the SANDF were leased for alleviation of particular challenges. It was problematic that government properties were hardly leased. In terms of combat readiness, he sought clarity on the issue of retention of provincial staff, the issue of defence endowment property and money received from the National Treasury, and the issue of defending the cyber space.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) said that the presentation showed that the SANDF’s operations were limited by the budget cuts. Jobs were decreasing instead of being created. The SANDF had a huge task, but human resources were lacking. He wondered how the SANDF could effectively operate with a 50% cut and in the face of inadequate manpower. The presentation pointed out problems, but had failed to provide recommendations on how they could be resolved, or to indicate what interventions the DoD was expecting from the Committee. How did the SANDF really operate without adequate funds?
Mr S Marais (DA) said that the Committee should invite the National Treasury to brief the Committee on the reasons why the SANDF budget had been cut. He had also noted that the presentation had pointed out problems but not solutions. Surely, the budget was constrained by the National Treasury and it was difficult to find budgetary solutions. Money was being allocated to social problems such as “FeesMustFall” and social housing. In addition, the economy was at a slow pace. All those factors meant that the SANDF should re-prioritise certain aspects in line with the budget available. Members should know what could be funded and what should be prioritised. He said that there should be two types of funding packages -- allocations from the fiscus and from the revenue. In any event, the budget was constrained, and this could translate into the cutting down of expenses which, in turn, would affect aspects prioritised. He sought clarity on the meaning of “defence dilemma” and what the DoD was planning to do to resolve the problem of funding, as the budget was expected to be reduced further. With the budget constraints, the DoD had to do an assessment on what commitments could be prioritised, and what the costs would be. The SANDF’s budget should largely rely on revenue, and the question was whether there was any revenue. He remarked that money was sometimes used to get more money, but it seemed that the SANDF was only spending. He sought clarity on whether 15 units were enough to safeguard the land borders. How were the sea borders patrolled? In which areas was the country vulnerable in terms of protection? Did the SANDF have a plane to control the sea borders?
Mr Marais said it seemed that everyone was complaining, instead of finding solutions. Referring to human resources, he said that it looked like the SANDF had no plan to solve the problem, because there was no money to increase its budget. He asked what could be an alternative way to raise funds. The SANDF was faced with a huge problem of having a workforce constituted by people of an advanced age and who were, simultaneously, advanced in rank. If the SANDF had old staff, it meant that it had a higher number of seniors. There was obviously a gap to the junior officers or new recruits. Referring to obligations of search and rescue, he sought clarity on whether those obligations could be reviewed in the light of affordability and the constitutional mandate. The review should be aimed at ascertaining which obligations could be discontinued, and which could be re-considered.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) suggested that responses should be provided in writing, because they might contain sensitive information. He wanted to know how many airports were unregistered and what sanction was imposed on unregistered airports. Referring to air space, he asked whether South African radar had the capability to detect drones, as the emerging use of drones was a threat. Was outsourcing a viable approach if the SANDF had an inadequate and insufficient budget? Did the DoD think that outsourcing would contribute positively to reducing costs? He suggested that the defence endowment property could be used to fund SANDF operations. The DoD should devise a plan on how to use this property profitably. He sought clarity from the SANDF on the regime change.
Mr S Esau (DA) said that the presentation should have focussed on the capability of the SANDF and its combat readiness. He asked about the effectiveness of its arms and the capability of multiplying forces. He asked why drones were not being used as alternative to manpower, and whether they had thought about using satellites to monitor and control border lines. The use of boats to control sea borders was not effective. The SANDF should adopt a technology-based safeguarding approach. He also remarked that the SANDF had been expected to retrench 25 000 soldiers in order to accommodate a young workforce, but the DoD had not done so. Despite failing to rejuvenate its forces, it was merely complaining. It needed to be noted that the SANDF was not about creating jobs, but to ensure capability, readiness and effectiveness. To achieve those goals, the SANDF was required to have people with special expertise and training. Special skills were a prerequisite.
Referring to two budget packages, he said that the second budget was budgeted for nothing, and sought clarity on what would rather be done in terms of limited resources. Referring to piracy, he asked how a budget would be arranged to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean if Portugal and the United Kingdom were involved. How much were Namibians paying for protecting their country? He accepted that the situation was becoming difficult and challenging for the SANDF. Notwithstanding the fiscal challenges, he wanted to know why soldiers were not used effectively in order to protect and defend national key points. Why were national key points protected by private companies? What was the DoD doing at South African national key points? He felt that outsourcing should be limited to consultancy and at no time should it have a role in protecting national key points.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was also to be blamed, because it had a duty to engage with the DoD and the SANDF. The Committee should accept that the operations of the SANDF were threatened by inadequate funding. The Committee should know from time to time what the combat readiness was, or what was needed for the Defence Force to be ready to combat. He said that the Dod’s responses should be in writing.
Lt Gen Vusi Masondo, Chief, Corporate Services, responded that the presentation came from the discussion of readiness. The Committee’s oversight was respected, but it was the responsibility of the DoD and SANDF to conceal information that would be used against the country. Referring to review, he said that there was the 2015 Defence Force Review which was a policy decision, and it needed funding to be implemented. The review could be implemented within five years. Some work had been done in terms of assessing what the costs would be, and the figures would be shocking if disclosed. He added that there were certain aspects which did not require funds, and these were implemented.
Lt Gen Masondo said that money could come not only from the fiscus, but also from other funding models outside of the National Treasury. There was money that could be gained as proceeds of investments. Through the SANDF activities, a lot of money was raised but it went to the National Treasury.
With regard to the use of new technology as a substitute for manpower, he said that these strategies had to be developed and the DoD had to raise funds in order to implement them. The funding of the SANDF should not come from one department.
On the question of readiness to respond to regime changes, he responded that the SANDF’s intervention could be provided if a regime change was an issue which had element of the military to it. It could not respond if it was a political change. The question of military intervention in regime change was predominantly a political decision.
On the question of presentation not touching on operations, Let Gen Masondo responded that the presentation was just a continuation of the engagement with the Committee.
On the question of job creation, Lt Gen Masondo responded that the DoD’s engagement in the creation of job was a by-product. Indeed, it was the desire of the DoD to recruit youth in the defence. It was not about creation of jobs for recruiting people but to recruit those who wanted to be soldiers and who wanted to defend their country. Recruitment for the sake of creating jobs were problematic because it resulted in having undisciplined workforce.
On the question of operating an under-funded entity, he replied that when the SANDF was given an instruction, it had to do its best to ensure that what it was instructed to do was done, irrespective of inadequate funding. Difficult decisions were taken to ensure that the work was done.
Referring to the provision of clear recommendations, he said that the DoD was seeking an intervention between the DoD and the National Treasury on the question of funding.
Lt Gen Masondo said that the DoD was working on the Military Disciplinary Bill, which would assist in running the defence force as a disciplined entity. On being aware of social needs, he said that the military leaders were responsible enough, and that the DoD was conscious of being a consumer of resources. He added that 23 units, in combination with technological elements, were needed to safeguard the land borders, but this could not be achieved due to resource constraints. The SANDF could not review international obligations to get rid of certain obligations, as such decisions were of a political nature. On the question of protecting the nation state of Namibia, he said that this had to do with the hydrographic concerns.
The Chairperson thanked Lt Gen Masondo for his responses, adding that more clarity should be provided in writing form.
The meeting was adjourned.
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