Until National Treasury forks out R50billion to the SANDF, the country’s borders will remain an open playground for illicit trading – and even a possible invasion.
This was the grim picture painted by the Chief of the South African army Lieutenant-General, Lindile Yam.
He was speaking at the annual media breakfast at the Army College in Thaba Tshwane yesterday. Yam, who has been reiterating the call for more money since taking over from Lieutenant-General, Vusi Masondo in 2016, ditched his speech to talk more about financial constraints.
The army did not have the money nor the manpower to step up security of the country’s porous borders, he said. “We have a constitutional mandate to protect the country, but how are we going to do that with the lack of resources?”
He also did not rule out the vulnerability of a possible attack on the country because of its weak boarders.
He said across the border in Mozambique, people were being beheaded and killed by terrorists. “We can’t sit idle. We must be ready for it.
Border and maritime security, with thousands of undocumented people crossing the borders, millions worth of illegal goods coming into the country and dozens of vessels illegally fishing in South African waters were Chief among the complaints.
“Resources available to the army are not adequate to ensure the territorial integrity of our country is adequately secured,” he said. “The operating budget of the army is R2bn.”
Yam went as far as to say that the government before 1994 was a giant compared with the current ANC (African National Congres)-led regime. He said the apartheid regime valued the army more.
“Some years ago, before the freedom of this country, the defence budget was at 28% of GDP. A number of staffers and engineers have deserted this country because of non-funding.”
The current defence budget was just under 1% of gross domestic product. The international norm was 2%.
The problem of the budget was heightened by the need not only to acquire new equipment, but also the funds to be able to train with it.
“It’s not a funky chicken jive out there; we are dealing with small irons that are to break and kill,” he warned.
He warned that cross-border crime has created heightened tensions between residents and migrants from neighbouring countries.
The funding shortfall had impacted drastically on some operations in Africa and internally, he said. Project Thusano was doing its best to maintain army vehicles, but had insufficient funding for spares.
Project Thusano has seen Cuban military mechanics provide essential maintenance to make SA army vehicles operational since 2015.
Responding to a reporter who suggested that the SANDF always complained about money while it should rather be focused on peacekeeping missions than being paranoid by war, Yam said: “We always talk about it because nothing has changed.”
Yam also touched on army projects for the year ahead and the achievements and developments achieved.
He cheered female soldiers in the army and said the SANDF continued to excel on addressing women’s issues in deployment areas.
Photo – The Chief of the South African army Lieutenant-General, Lindile Yam, briefing the media on the status of the SANDF (South African National Defence Force).
Sakhile Ndlazi – iol.co.za, 19-10-2018