Parliament - The navy has warned that if it does not get more funding the country’s submarines and frigates would soon be in a state of disrepair and threaten national security.
Chief of the navy Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane told Parliament budget cuts by the National Treasury had led to the submarines and frigates not being maintained as required.
He said the navy needed a budget of R6.8 billion, but was getting only R3.6bn from the fiscus.
He said the budget cuts had been going on for some time and the country faced the risk of not having a navy to be able conduct operations at sea.
“The South African Navy is extremely restricted in its ability to deploy. Out of the four frigates, three have not been refitted,” said Hlongwane.
He said refitting one frigate required R700 million.
Out of three submarines, only one was maintained in 2015.
To refit one submarine costs R400m.
“The safety and reliability of patrol capability is of concern. You have got your four frigates and three submarines. If the status quo remains, your navy will be depleted,” said Hlongwane.
He warned that if no maintenance was done now, the country would be left with one submarine and one frigate in 2021.
The frigates and submarines are 16 years old, have a lifespan of 30 years and need urgent maintenance as they are in their mid-life.
He said maintenance was required every five years.
“With the ship, you need that overhaul every five years. Three of the four frigates and two of the three submarines are in need of urgent refits. Should refits not be done, South Africa will lose submarine capability,” said Hlongwane.
Members of the joint standing committee on defence agreed that the urgent maintenance of frigates and submarines was needed to avoid any security risk.
Jerome Maake of the ANC said this was an appeal by the navy chief for the national legislature to intervene and ask for more funds from the Treasury.
He said it could not be business as usual when the navy was in dire straits.
Russell Cebekhulu of the IFP said the navy needed a proper budget to secure the waters of the country.
The country’s waters need to be protected against any threat and illegal activities, he said.
Co-chairperson of the committee Cyril Xaba said he was
concerned about the state of affairs of the navy.
“My worry is that if we lose our own capability it will take a long time to replace it. Even if you do, it will be very expensive. We must maintain our capability now,” said Xaba.