JOHANNESBURG – Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday renewed the SA government's commitment to supporting the local defence industry, which faces a myriad of problems including the lack of transformation and tougher competition in international markets.
The industry problems were exacerbated by a declining budget and consequently reduced spending on the acquisition of defence armaments.
Mapisa-Nqakula said mindful of the challenges "we are then compelled to acknowledge that it cannot be business as usual. The [defence] industry has to transform".
She told players in the sector, ahead of the beginning of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition which kicks off on Wednesday, that "The industry has to perform against contracts both locally and abroad.
"There are no entitlements to any capability areas of contracts regardless of your standing as a systems house or degree of state ownership.
"We have to better manage our resources and process to optimally ensure localisation, industrialisation and retention of capabilities within the SADI [SA defence industry] as well as to get full government support for SADI exports."
Mapisa-Nqakula said, as the responsible minister, she has begun the process of repositioning the SADI by mandating the establishment of the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC) whose structure is currently being costed so that funds can be sourced, and having it operationalised.
"Emanating from the work of NDIC, you will be aware that we have completed the compilation of the SA Defence Industry Strategy and are now finalising its implementation plan which will be adopted before the end of this year with implementation to commence soon thereafter," she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula highlighted the critical role played by the defence industry, particularly in bringing in the much-needed foreign currency into the struggling economy.
"As a start, I wish to reassure you that we are aware of the key contribution that is made by the exports in ensuring the continued existence of the SADI. To this end, my department and I remain committed to providing you with the necessary political support in all your future export endeavours.
"In fact, I must highlight that it becomes my mission to market our defence industry, together with the chief of SANDF, service and division chiefs and generally SANDF personnel," she said.
"The downside, however, happens when there is no follow-through from yourselves as the SADI on the bilateral engagements I would have undertaken and committed to, thus leaving us with egg on our face."
More than 300 exhibitors are set to showcase their military products and high-tech capabilities at this year's five-day AAD2018 exhibition.
The AAD is described by the South African National Defence Force as "the largest defence and aerospace exhibition in Africa and the only one of its kind, boasting the successful format of a combined exhibition of air, sea and land technologies, a static aircraft display and an air show".
– African News Agency (ANA)