Publication: News24 Issued: Date: 2005-03-10 Reporter: Iaine Harper Reporter: Sapa

SANDF 'Can't Use New Weapons'







Iaine Harper, Sapa

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Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance said on Thursday the defence force did not have the capacity to use the new military hardware it was getting.

"The (defence force) is beginning to feel the consequences of the arms-deal debacle", said DA public accounts spokesperson Eddie Trent.

During a hearing of parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa) for the defence department, it emerged that, "having forked out R36bn on aircraft and other military hardware, the department does not have the capacity to use its costly purchases".

The defence force had a huge number of vacancies in critical occupations, including:

airspace control, with 650 posts that need to be filled, only 470 of these filled, and only 13 individuals in training;
aircrew members, with 823 posts, only 489 filled, and only 50 in training; and
Engineers and technicians, with 10 504 posts, only 7 227 filled, and only 238 in training.

Trent said it seemed the chickens had come home to roost.

"It is common knowledge the government suppressed the testimonies of personnel within the defence force and defence procurement who gave evidence to the joint investigating team on the arms deal, clearly indicating that the defence force lacked the capacity to use this hardware," he claimed.

"If the defence force had taken heed of their testimony, the present situation would not have arisen."

With acknowledgements to Iaine Harper, Sapa and News24.