Publication: Cape Times Issued: Date: 2003-09-04 Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

Lekota Pleads for Defence Boost



Cape Times

Date 2003-09-04


Christelle Terreblanche

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The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) needs an urgent injection of more than R2 billion to sustain its capability to defend South Africa in case of crisis.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota made a passionate appeal to parliament and the government to take into account that the defence department’s budget had shown a growing deficit.

He also sounded a warning that South Africa would no longer be able to fulfil its role in peacekeeping in Africa if its defence force’s capability was not improved.

“South Africa cannot afford to refuse to spend today and hope that the defence force will stand in a time of crisis, because by then it would be too late and it would be a waste of resources,” he said.

Lekota said the capacity was diminishing and rebuilding it from scratch would be far more expensive than sustaining it.

“There is an urgent need to do something about the budget of defence,” he said during parliamentary question time.

“A critical problem of the SANDF at the present time is that the capabilities we inherited and which we have the task of maintaining...are getting eroded and (after every budget)...we have to reprioritise and it means we jeopardise the capability or we lose it.

“A recent study....of the SANDF to assess precisely what is required t enable us not to increase capabilities but to sustain what we have....(found there was need for) just over R2 billion.”

Lekota said South Africa had a role to play in Africa that was similar to that played by Germany in Europe, where it was the biggest economy.

“History has placed a responsibility on our shoulders. We can’t avoid it, we can’t escape it, it can no longer be postponed,” Lekota warned.

“I know defence consumes wealth, but it provides services that we cannot do without if this country is to continue to play the leadership role it has to play in this region.”

Lekota agreed that South Africa should postpone further deployment on the continent until the fundamentals were in place.

“Today we are under immense pressure to participate in the mission in Liberia,” he said.

“However, we will not recommend to the president to deploy when that deployment will, in our view, overstretch our capabilities.”

With acknowledgements to Christelle Terreblanche and the Cape Times.