Address by the Minister of Defence on the Defence Budget Vote
Realising Our Hopes
by Joe Modise
9 March 1999.
It is almost five years since our first democratic election and we have laid firm foundations for the defence of our country. We have constructed an institution that is proving its worth and will continue to improve.
The SANDF Succeeding
Let us recall one of the major anxieties in the run-up to the 1994 elections.
That was whether the military would show loyalty and commitment to democratic change, and whether we would be able to unite former adversarial forces into a unified defence force.
Whilst there is always a need for improvement, the answer has been a resounding Yes!
Whatever the difficulties, the defence force has fulfilled our hopes - it has proved stable, loyal and professional.
The President has acclaimed its role in establishing peace in Lesotho. This was the first time the SANDF saw action beyond our borders - and honourably passed that baptism of fire. Those who fell reflected the diversity of our population, and the unity of our defence force was sealed with their blood.
I ask the House to acknowledge, in the gallery today, the family of one of those who fell, Corporal Jerome Sax of Cape Town. It is appropriate for me to once more salute our fallen heroes and their families on behalf of our country.
The defence force's unity had already been put to the test by the early retirement of the former Chief of the SANDF because of a discredited intelligence report.
The smooth succession of the new Chief, General Nyanda, has shown a defence force able to cope with fundamental change.
Rising to the Challenge of Change Integration and Representivity
The defence force had to undergo perhaps the greatest transformation of any state institution in our country. Eight former adversarial forces had to be brought together and integrated on a scale unprecedented in the world. And we had to achieve that within the context of major Defence cuts.
The enormity of this change is apparent when we consider the following
- In 1994, we ended apartheid's conscript system which had compulsorily militarised 600 000 whites.
- We inherited a full time component of 100 000 to which was added 36 000 Liberation force combatants
Today we have an all-volunteer professional force downsized to 87 000, and which is set to drop further to 70 000.
- In 1994, about 50% of the defence force was black. Now over 71% are black.
- Less than 1% of officers in the old SADF were black. The figure in our new defence force is 32%.
To date, we have appointed
- 19 black generals from major-general up - of which 14 are currently serving;
- over 250 colonels and lieutenant colonels; and
- over 1 000 majors and captains.
Almost 20% of the Department's members are women, of whom 13% are in uniform - up 2.5% since 1994 - and of whom a quarter are officers.
Today we have a defence force that is a partnership of our people and increasingly representative of our population.
We have fundamentally transformed the militaristic image of our country.
In 1989, Defence spending was 4.5% of GDP. It is 1.4% of GDP now. As a percentage of total Government expenditure, it is down from 15.6% in 1989, to around 7%. In the period since 1994, the reduction in the Defence budget has been the equivalent of 1% of GDP.
These reductions have enabled government to shift substantial resources to socio-economic upliftment, providing an impressive peace dividend.
We were foremost amongst the world leaders in the ban and destruction of anti-personnel mines. We are the first country in the world to respond to the UN's call to destroy surplus weapons.
By the end of this year we will have destroyed over 260 000 redundant small arms of various calibres. The UN Secretary General has expressed his congratulations to our country, as "a valuable example for other nations to follow". We have also taken action in outlawing mercenary activity through the adoption of the Foreign Military Assistance Act . And we have enhanced regional co-operation through the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee.
A statistical breakdown of the approximately 37 000 members who have left the force since 1994 disproves a concern that downsizing has mainly affected former liberation fighters.
Just under 600 were former APLA members, just over 1 700 former MK, over 4 270 former TBVC, and over 28 000 former SADF.
Of almost 3 000 disciplinary discharges
- just under 300 were ex-APLA,
- 683 ex-MK,
- 400 ex-TBVC, and
- 1 482 ex-SADF.
Which show that disciplinary problems have not been confined to one particular group or former force.
The White Paper and Defence Review Process
There have been major changes in Defence policy and in the culture and values of our defence force. Policy milestones were our White Paper and Defence Review. The formulation of these has been hailed as the most consultative, inclusive and transparent in the world.
Consolidating Civil Control
To implement our policy and to effect greater civil control over the military, a Defence Secretariat was created.
The strengthening of the Defence Secretariat - to ensure that the Ministry has the managerial capacity for the supervision and implementation of transformation - has been another major achievement.
Our Civic Education programme is now being implemented throughout the defence force - as an integral part of a new military culture appropriate to our democracy.
Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunities
Our Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity programmes have similarly been showing results.
A 24% increase in the promotions of ex-MK members, and an 8% increase in the promotion of ex-APLA members has been recorded between 1997 and 1998. Similarly there has been an increase of 20% in the promotions of Africans.
The SANDF is one of the few armed forces in the world which accepts the right of women to serve in combat. There are plans to ensure greater emphasis on gender equality which are to be implemented over the next 5 years. The statistics I have referred to earlier show that much more needs to be done to increase the number of women in the defence force. I wish to give an assurance that we will pay special attention to developing their career paths.
Symbolic of change has been the renaming of our main military base outside Pretoria - Thaba Tshwane.
The navy has renamed their strike craft after famous warriors from our common history. Our submarines will be renamed in a ceremony later this year. The new names chosen for the three submarines are
- Spear and
Transforming Defence Intelligence
There have been key changes in the command of Defence Intelligence, and the whole institution is being overhauled. The former separate intelligence structures of the Services have been amalgamated into a single structure under the Chief of Intelligence, General Motau.
From a minority of black members in the past, the present breakdown is 43% black and 57% white.
Support for Civil Authorities
The defence force produces value for money in terms of its support for the civil authority. This ranges from
- Supporting the police in the fight against crime; to
- Disaster relief for fire, flood, and tornado victims;
- Search and rescue missions at sea and in the mountains; and
- Providing medical assistance and temporary shelter where disaster strikes.
Defence force personnel have played a major role in assisting the Independent Electoral Commission in voter registration - winning many friends in the process.
The Defence force has provided sterling support to the police in the fight against crime, in critical areas such as the Cape Flats, Richmond, Tsolo and Xunu, to name but a few.
Whilst we have a long way to go before we have satisfactorily reduced the level of serious crime and violence, it is clear that the defence force has helped the police make significant inroads and will continue to do so.
The budgetary constraints have been affecting the number of units available for deployment. This is an area of special concern and I wish to assure the House that we are looking at ways to reallocate funds to this most pressing of challenges.
Assistance to the Region
The defence force has rendered invaluable humanitarian support throughout our region. Significant examples have been
- Shipment and airlift of food and medicines to Rwandan refugees;
- Assistance to flood victims in Mozambique and Tanzania;
- Assistance in the ferry disaster on Lake Victoria;
- Last year's assistance to refugees from the Lesotho upheaval;
- De-mining in Angola and Mozambique;
- And the use of our flagship, the Outeniqua, as operational quarters for our President in brokering peace talks at the time of Mobutu's fall in the Congo
This aid is a far cry from the use of the pre-1994 defence force as an instrument of aggression, and has won for our country the approval of our neighbours.
We have completed successful joint exercises with neighbouring defence forces and others further afield, and stand ready to assist in international peacekeeping - if and when called upon.
We will be hosting a joint regional exercise - Blue Crane - on land and sea during the latter part of next month. Over 4 500 military personnel from every country in the region will be participating. My special thanks to the countries of the European Union, North America and India for their generous support.
Evaluation and Policy Priorities
Whilst I am proud of the successes to date, we are not complacent. Integration has been an emotive and complex process and there are still challenges to be overcome. It is unrealistic to expect otherwise.
In certain critical areas we have great strides to make before the SANDF achieves its full potential. I would like to highlight:
- career development and promotion,
- gender issues, inter personal relations and
- disciplinary measures.
The Needs of the Ordinary Soldier
Far greater focus must be placed on the needs of the ordinary soldier so that all may feel completely at home within the defence force. They must know that their commanders have their well-being in mind. That is the starting point for a force high in both morale and discipline.
A New Defence Act and Military Discipline Code
Concerns have been raised about standards of discipline. Attempts to impose the outmoded disciplinary code have caused many of the strains we have experienced and many unnecessary courts martial for petty offences.
Whilst there are 4 000 pending court martial charges, the overwhelming majority - 78% - relate to AWOL Many members on leave travel long distances to remote rural areas and have difficulty getting back to base on time. By making reasonable allowances to provide extra time in such cases, the defence force will better manage the problem. Discipline can often be improved by practical and fair measures.
Rewriting the Defence Act and new Military Discipline Code has been a slow and complex process. A team of experts from the Departments of Defence and Justice, Civil Society, and the legal profession, have recorded significant progress.
A draft Bill to amend the Military Discipline Code has been approved by Cabinet and will be placed before Parliament during this session. In the mean time a moratorium has been placed on the holding of courts martial.
The Part Time Forces
I have always been committed to the role of the part time soldiers. Budgetary constraints and rationalisation have unfortunately led to several units being depleted or phased out.
The programme to develop new units based on townships and rural villages has suffered, but in many instances - notably the Eastern Cape and other rural areas - a good start has been made.
I am aware of the adverse effect on the morale and capacity of our Reserves - as the Part Time Forces are now to be called - particularly at a time when their services are going to be required for the coming election, and this is being addressed.
We have a policy in place and are looking at ways to find additional funds for our part time units - especially to ensure that they are able to secure the coming election.
Since 1994 we have sought to restore the dignity of our veterans. And we have restored to their rightful place of honour those who fought fascism and Nazism in the Second World War. In order to embrace all military veterans, a Veterans Bill has been adopted by Cabinet and will be placed before this House for approval later today.
Re-equipping the SANDF
With all the challenges of transformation we have also had to solve the problem of replacing obsolete equipment within a reduced budget. Government's decision to re-equip Defence is not a luxury but a major necessity.
I am heartened by the commitment shown to the acquisition programme by both the President and Finance Minister in their keynote addresses of this Parliamentary session.
The proposed 29.7 billion Rands expenditure on ships, planes and helicopters will be spread over 15 years. It will therefore cost us approximately 500 million Rands per year over that period.
This decision has given a tremendous boost to our navy and air force which have been most in need of new equipment. But the entire defence force - and certainly, the soldiers on the ground - will benefit enormously with the provision of air cover and transport by air and sea.
Re-equipping the defence force is being done in such a way as to add value to our economy. In return for our expenditure, our economy will benefit by
- an estimated 110 billion Rands of new investment and industrial participation programmes;
- and the creation of approximately 65 000 jobs.
The sceptics have suggested this is wishful thinking.
The following breakdown has been very carefully calculated with the Department of Trade and Industry. Of the 110 billion Rands
- Over R26 billion is made up of direct investment into the project;
- R25 billion is estimated revenue from local sales stemming from the business projects that will be established; and
- R59 billion will be derived from export sales.
The business opportunities and investments that are going to flow were heralded last week by the announcement that Celsius of Sweden had invested 30 million Rands in Grintek - now a major black empowerment group in the Defence Industry.
This investment would not have happened unless the prospects for the Defence industry were looking promising. Teams from the departments of Finance, Trade and Industry and Defence are evaluating the proposals.
As to the concern that such transactions are open to improper influences, I want to assure you that the bids have gone through a fine tooth comb to ensure an ethical outcome.
It is clear that this acquisition project will enormously benefit South African industry as a whole. It will benefit the Defence industry in particular - which receives a new lease of life.
Armscor marked its 50th anniversary by holding its first ever international Defence exposition in South Africa last year - DEXSA'98. It was extremely well attended, both by international and local companies, as well as tens of thousands of ordinary citizens and their families.
The Need for Credible Defence
Some critics have asked whether we face a threat that justifies costly modern equipment.
Since 1994, I have pointed to the uncertainty and volatility of the world and the difficulty in predicting possible future threats - not only internationally but also in our continent and region. This has been dramatically borne out by events in Angola, the Congo and the Great Lakes Region, and, of course, in Lesotho. Such crises have the tendency to spread and destabilise neighbouring states unless effective diplomatic measures are implemented in time. And words only carry weight if the means to reinforce them exist. "Speak softly and carry a big stick", was Teddy Roosevelt's way of pointing this out.
We will always show great sensitivity in our dealings with our neighbours and we threaten no one. We cannot be complacent, however, or live without the insurance of Defence cover - and we need modern equipment in the 21st Century.
Budgeting for the 21st Century
This years budget allocation for Defence is 10.677 billion Rands. Funding is set to grow at 2.5% over the next three years.
This year's increase is 683 million Rands over last year.
Whilst welcoming this nominal increase, I must point out that, by taking inflation into account, our purchasing power remains constant.
Whilst I appreciate the cost constraints that all government departments are subject to, I do have to sound a warning that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the defence force to carry out all its functions.
In attempting to manage the situation, we have been examining the more effective allocation of our resources, streamlining administrative systems, restructuring, downsizing and generally promoting greater financial efficiency.
We will still strive to be more cost-efficient.
In this respect, I welcome the Auditor General's report on possible financial irregularities in the defence force concerning the outsourcing of vehicle repairs and his recommendation that this be investigated by the Office of Serious Economic Offences.
Everyone in the defence force needs to fully appreciate that a hard-pressed government fiscus will not be sympathetic to our needs unless we discipline those who squander our resources.
Our objective over the next three years must be to arrive at greater fiscal discipline.
We aim to reduce personnel expenditure to 40% and operating costs to 30% of the budget. This will increase the amount for capital expenditure from the present 9% to 30% of the budget.
Achieving this ratio will assist in substantially funding the cost of our planes ships and helicopters.
I believe that we have succeeded in laying a firm foundation for Defence. We are building further and are creating a defence force that is becoming the pride of our nation and the realisation of our hopes.
My appreciation to my able and diligent deputy Ronnie Kasrils whose loyalty and commitment I have come to enjoy not only over these last 5 years but ever since we formed Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961.
I also wish to record my sincere appreciation to the Parliamentary Committees on Defence, whose excellent co-operation has been a particular feature of the five years under review.
I need to acknowledge the leadership of the Hon. Messrs Tony Yengeni and Piet Groenewald, and congratulate the Hon. Thandi Modise on becoming Chairperson of the Joint Standing Committee.
My appreciation to the former Secretary for Defence, Mr. Pierre Steyn, and to the Acting Defence Secretary, Mr. Mmamatho Netsianda; the former and current Chiefs of the SANDF, Generals Georg Meiring and Sipiwe Nyanda; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Armscor, Messrs. Ron Haywood and Llew Swann; and Major General Ian Deetlefs of the Part Time Force.
My very special gratitude to the small team of past and present members that make up the Ministry of Defence under the present command of Brigadier General Snowball and to my Ministerial Advisors Advocate Fana Hlongwane and Mr. Ian M. Steyn.
No report is complete without mention of the invaluable contribution to the integration process of the British Military Advisory and Training Team who have won such confidence and trust over the past five years.
All the aforementioned have played an historic role in the transformation of the Department of Defence and creation of our South African National Defence Force.
Finally, and on behalf of our government and people, I wish to express my compliments to all members of the SANDF and Department of Defence for their devotion to duty and their loyal and valiant service to a grateful country.
I warmly thank them and their families for their loyalty and support.
Madam Speaker, Honourable Members,
I am not standing in the coming general election and therefore this is my last Budget Address to this House.
I carry with me fond memories of these past five years and wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Honourable Members of all parties who have so capably assisted us in creating Defence for a Democracy.
I move that the House approves the Defence Vote.