Parliament - Urgent action is needed to reverse the decline in the SA National Defence Force, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs on Wednesday.
“We do not have a choice, but to respond with urgency to [implement] plans to arrest the decline within the current five years, starting immediately during this financial year,” she said, opening debate in Parliament on her department's R42.8 billion budget.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the Defence Review - now before Parliament - stated unambiguously that the Sandf was in a state of decline characterised by force imbalance between capabilities, ageing technology, and unaffordability of many of its main operating systems.
Five years was the amount of time needed to develop a limited and sustainable defence capability.
“The longer the neglect is perpetuated, the greater the effort, time and cost it will take to arrest the decline,” she warned.
Although the Sandf was still able to maintain operational presence, “if we do not start now, the decline will get worse”.
Mapisa-Nqakula vowed to act over the next five years to restore the minimum capabilities required to safeguard South Africa, protect its maritime resources and trade routes, and conduct peace missions and humanitarian interventions.
Speaking during the debate, African National Congress MP Malusi Motimele, who chairs Parliament's defence portfolio committee, also called for urgent action to rescue the defence force.
“There is a persistent disconnect between the defence mandate, growing defence commitments, and resource allocation, to the point where the defence force is unable to fully fulfil its constitutional responsibilities, and is hard-pressed to even maintain its current model, let alone commitments.”
Motimele said there had to be either a greater budget allocation, or a significant scaling down of the Sandf's ambitions and commitments.
A first priority should be to reverse the decline in the Sandf, and then to “re-balance and capacitate” it adequately, he said.