Billions to be spent on arms
As questions surrounding the multibillion-rand arms deal linger, South Africa will be forced to spend billions more in arms acquisitions over the next couple of decades.
The required acquisitions - at a time when the country's defence force capabilities continue to collapse - comes as the DA yesterday revealed that in the past decade R70-billion had flowed through a special defence force slush fund.
Only yesterday, the SA National Defence Force tested the Airbus Military's C295, a light-lift transport and surveillance aircraft, at Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria. The aircraft is being punted as a possible solution to the defence force's collapsed maritime surveillance capabilities.
The defence force has in the next financial year budgeted for plans to begin acquiring maritime surveillance aircraft to protect the country's 3924km coastline.
The defence force at present uses almost obsolete WW2 Dakotas to patrol the country's coastline.
President Jacob Zuma recently called for the reopening of the arms deal inquiry - appointing the Seriti Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations of wrongdoing in the strategic defence procurement packages. The inquiry is expected to spend two years conducting its investigations.
The Defence Review Committee, in releasing its draft report, said the planned acquisitions, which include armoured vehicles, were urgent, especially with piracy threats increasing.
The planned acquisitions have been slammed, with DA defence spokesman David Maynier, revealing that in the past decade R70-billion had passed through a special defence account.
"Much of this would have been spent on capital acquisitions, yet parliament has never been briefed about how the money is spent," he said.
Maynier said that, during apartheid, the account was used as a sanction-busting slush fund.
Rob Thomson, of the anti-armaments lobby group the Ceasefire Campaign, said: "The review is vague and a thumb-suck approach to what we need and why we need what we are told we need. There need to be proper evaluations of what the defence force must do and what threats South Africa faces .
"The acquisitions smack of empire building with the defence industries trying to protect themselves from losses. This is history repeating itself. The last arms deal claimed to be in line with the previous one when it was not. The lack of quantification in the review on what is required is worrying."
Thomson said the review stated that the SANDF was 24% underfunded.
"Yet there is no indication of where these figures come from."
Institute of Security Studies' senior researcher Johan Potgieter said though requirements for new equipment were vital, it was debatable whether the acquisition could be afforded.
"[The] government needs to say what it wants the defence force to do. Once this is done, we can see what we need and if we can afford it," he said.
"We need good governance to avoid gross mismanagement."
Maynier said the joint standing committee on defence had not been briefed on the defence force's acquisition programme contained in the strategic capital acquisition plan.
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said the problem was that South Africa had dragged its feet in acquisitions.
"If there was proper planning this massive amount wouldn't occur and we wouldn't sit where we are now. We are fooling ourselves about our defence capabilities.
"Replacements should have been done years ago to spread out costs," Heitman said.
DEFENCE FORCE'S EXPANSION PLANS:
THE SANDF is planning massive expansion projects, says defence analyst Helmoed Heitman. They include:
- Navy: Estimated total cost R10-billion;
- Project Saucepan: Maritime surveillance aircraft, estimated at about R320-million each for six aircraft;
- Project Biro: inshore/offshore patrol vessels. Offshore: eight vessels required at an estimated cost of R470-million each. Inshore: Six vessels at R100 million each;
- Army: Replace armoured personnel carriers including the Ratel, Mamba, Casspir and Samil trucks;
- Project Hoefyster: replacement of Ratels with the new Badger - 264 vehicles at cost of R8.8-billion. The actual requirement is 1000 vehicles. The cost includes the development of interior and weapon and turret systems;
- Project Sepula: replacement project for Mamba and Casspir vehicles. Long-term project to acquire 3000 vehicles. Cost unknown; and
- Project Vistula: replacement of the army's Samil truck. Long-term project to acquire 3000 vehicles. Cost unknown.