Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2002-07-08 Reporter: Leon Engelbrecht, Sapa Editor:

No Quick Fix for SANDF


Publication  Business Day
Date 2002-07-08
Reporter Leon Engelbrecht, Sapa
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There was no quick fix for the SA National Defence Force's many problems, a retired general said today.

He was commenting on a report that a budget crunch caused by too high a salary bill on the one hand and the cost of the arms acquisition programme on the other was leaving too little money to run the defence force.

Members of the Parliamentary defence portfolio committee were in late June told by military officers that 70% of the army's budget allocation was being spent on salaries. It should not be more than 40%.

They were also told the army had only four running Olifant tanks and eight Rooikat armoured cars out of a estimated fleet of 168 and 242 respectively.

But SANDF spokesman Colonel John Rolt denied this, saying the figures were wrong.

"In the regular component we have 30 Olifant Mk1A main battle tanks ready for deployment - six at the School of Armour and 24 managed and maintained by 1SA Tank Regiment."

Rolt said 18 Rooikat vehicles were currently being "managed and maintained," with eight in use at any one time at the School of Armour.

"This number is based on the available funds for the Financial Year 2002/03 to sustain these vehicles. Additional funding would be required to operate more tanks and armoured cars."

The rest of the fleet, the size of which he declined to confirm for reasons of security, was being kept in running order in low-cost preservation.

"We are using a skeleton principle approach informed by budget constraints and strategic guidelines based on certain threat scenarios."

Commenting on the report, Brigadier General George Kruys said some of the problems recently highlighted were the inevitable result of post-1994 integration. But many more were not new and were inherited from the previous dispensation.

He said the SANDF had little choice but accepting thousands of former guerrillas from the liberation forces and troops from the homeland armies.

"The problems are known and people write about them from time to time. The old SADF was a part-time organisation. This is now conveniently forgotten. After the end of the war in Angola and Namibia its national servicemen and reservists went home. The SANDF is all regular. They cost much more than reservists. I'm not criticising, that's just the way it is."

Kruys said defence planners would be wise to rehabilitate the reserves and move the army back to being a mainly part-time force.

"As you may know, the Defence Minister (Mosiuoa Lekota) wants to bring in 10,000 volunteers a year for two years. Most will afterwards go into the reserves. This is a damn good idea."

The navy and air force, both more technologically intensive forces, should stay mostly regular, he added.

Turning to strategy, he said South Africa's foreign policy required a defence force that could pack a certain punch.

"Japan is rich but unable to influence anyone (without using its chequebook.) History is full of rich, weak, countries that got clobbered, like Kuwait (by Iraq). If everybody knows the SANDF is a nil then our regional policy won't work.

"My basic contention is this: We need a military of a certain size to have clout. We must make an appreciation of what is required and spend no more money achieving this than needed. Then we should move from firm base to firm base to implement it."

With acknowledgements to Leon Engelbrecht, Sapa and Business Day.