SA’s Defence Review finalised

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pretoria - The country’s second Defence Review has been finalised and submitted for Cabinet approval, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Thursday.

The objective, the minister said, was to create a balanced, flexible and modern force that uses advanced technology in response to the changing nature of the defence function globally.

“I’m confident that it will be considered and approved before the end of the term of the current administration,” the minister said at the New Age Business Briefing.

The first draft of the review was made public in April 2012 by the then Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu. Following consultation with the current Defence Minister, among others, a number of changes were made to the second draft that was released in November 2012.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said that current strategic considerations called for a greater defence contribution towards the security of countries.

“Our defence force will have to adapt and reconsider the way it’s structured, how it executes its functions and provides defence to the nation.

“A new force design will include capabilities that will allow the military to reach and intervene in conflict areas anywhere on the continent,” she said.

Following the dawn of democracy, the new Defence Force inherited equipment that needed urgent replacement.

“It’s important for troops to acquire the necessary equipment if we are to succeed in executing our mandate,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Youth gain skills

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) requires well-educated and highly skilled personnel. As such, the military skills development system was introduced in 2003.

Since then, it has assisted about 41 000 youths to enter a career in the military.  Of these, 26 joined the regular force; 6 941 enlisted as reserves.

A total of 6 224 who qualified were employed in the SANDF scarce skills and critical mastering such as engineering, medicine and other technical fields.

The department has also finalised the establishment of a permanent Defence Force Service Commission to create and administer appropriate remuneration levels and conditions of service.

Support for veterans, defence industry

Giving a broader review of the work of the ministry, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said the Department of Military Veterans was established in 2009 to address matters related to the needs of those who had served the army.

The department’s work stalled in the beginning due to teething problems. However, out of several interventions, it has established the necessary systems required to deliver on its mandate. 

“Our regulations governing provision of benefits, as required by military veterans, has now been gazetted.  We are aware that deserving military veterans have received benefits. Like in any system, there are people who want to take the system for a ride and pretend to be military veterans,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Touching on matters in the industry, the minister said given the cuts in the defence budget, it was important for government to play a more involved role in providing support for the defence force.

“My view is that it remains our responsibility to build a viable and competitive and sustainable defence industry,” she said.

SA’s peacekeeping efforts

In March 2013, 13 South African soldiers were killed during clashes with the rebel alliance, known as Seleka, in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR).

Lessons had been learnt in the incident, the minister said. She stressed that the country played an important role in continental peacekeeping efforts.

“We are not an island; we are part of the global village and whatever conflict in any part of the continent, will have a negative impact on SA, its economy and of course the migration patterns in the country. It’s important that we prevent chaos and anarchy even before it reaches our borders,” she said.

“We’ve been involved in peacekeeping for the past 20 years but for the first time, we suffered heavy casualties. The story of Bangui taught us a few lessons,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.

South Africa currently has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has been there for some time and also is in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. -

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