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Sun Aug 31 02:16:22 SAST 2014

SANDF in big trouble

GRAEME HOSKEN | 25 September, 2012 00:26
South African National Defense soldiers (SANDF)
Image by: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS

The SA National Defence Force is on the verge of collapse.

With dwindling budgets, an exodus of highly-skilled technical staff and reduced spending on training and equipment, the defence force - according to military experts - can barely meet its constitutional obligations.

Increasing international demands and frequent internal deployments - such as the recent presidential announcement of the deployment of hundreds of troops on crime fighting operations over the next four months - is putting further strain on the already overstretched armed services.

The army has nearly 2000 troops on peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, and military trainers in the Central African Republic and the DRC.

The defence force has military observers deployed under the AU and UN flags in Ethiopia and Eritrea. The navy has a frigate, and air force personnel and aircraft, in the Mozambican channel and Mozambique deployed on anti-piracy operations.

Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said the defence force was now collapsing.

"We have huge sections of the budget spent on salaries, with equipment and training left lacking. We are hopelessly short on manpower - 20000 troops too few - and porous borders that cannot be guarded properly," he said.

"We have pilots who can't fly [sufficient] hours, troops who have been given limits on the amount of ammunition they can use in training, and equipment, such as our frigates, which cannot be maintained because there is no proper budget.

"The defence force is collapsing. If drastic action is not taken soon, in the next three years it will be beyond recovery."

The Defence Department received just over R34-billion last year from the Treasury. Its current budget of R37-billion is expected to increase to R39-billion in the 2013-2014 financial year. Professor Renfrew Christie, dean of research at the University of Western Cape, said the military's budget needed a drastic increase.

"We spend 1% of our gross national product on defence. We need a military capable of looking after our country with the time now coming to increase spending to 2% of GDP," Christie said. "To do our duty, we need a bigger and better equipped military. The option of downscaling our involvement north of our borders is not an option.

"Protecting our country and its borders is far bigger than just putting up fences," he said.

Retired admiral Chris Bennett, the former naval chief of staff, said the massive "poaching" of technical staff had led to numerous crises in the navy.

"Our military, especially on the technical side, is being bled dry by both public and private industries, as well as by foreign militaries.

"Though the navy until now has managed to stay afloat, things are beginning to bite," he said.

"The right funding has not been given to the military [which is] being required more and more by parliament to do things [parliament is] not prepared to pay for.

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Sun Aug 31 02:16:22 SAST 2014 ::