Address by (MP) Cde Thabo Mmutle on the Budget Vote Debate for the Department of Defence

17 July 2019

Honourable Chair

As I take stand in this podium to break my virginity in so far as the 6th parliament debates are concerned, I wish to take this opportunity to thank primarily the people of our country and the ANC for giving us this opportunity to represent them. We dare not fail them.

Chairperson

South Africa’s national interest is centred on the advancement of its sovereignty, democracy, national values and freedoms and its political and economic independence.

South African national security focuses on its sovereignty and other related priorities of territorial integrity; constitutional order; the security and continuance of national institutions; the well-being, prosperity and upliftment of the people; the growth of the economy. This function is captured in the Section 200(2) of the Constitution.

Honourable Members

We as the ANC also expressed our concerns about the continuous decreases in the defence budget. “We acknowledge the financial constraints under which the Department of Defence is operating under. For this reason, we urge the department to speed up the development of the Funding Model to allow our Committee to engage with it and assist where possible.”

Chairperson

The 54th conference of the ANC acknowledged the reality that the work of the security cluster is labour intensive and therefore the mechanical reduction in the budget and personnel will invariably weaken its capacity and capability to reassert the authority of the state, to protect the territorial integrity of the republic and ensure that all South Africans feel safe.

Chairperson

It is on that basis that we wish to remind the executive and the Minister of finance in particular about the resolution taken by the 54th conference “Government should allocate adequate addition financial resources to the security cluster to effectively deal with territorial integrity of the country”. It is our basis for condemnation of the shrinking budget of DOD. It can’t continue to be correct that the Funding of the Defence budget is less than 1% of GDP (0.97 and it was at 1.1% previous years), making it the lowest in SADC region. Most countries and NATO ones as well, use 2% of GDP and some countries in Africa even higher. The advice to SANDF was that the budget should be kept at 1, 8% of GDP. This has not happened. Which means the resolution of the ANC is not implemented and it can’t continue to be business as usual.

Honourable Members

Despite financial constraints, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) should be applauded for its continued ability to fulfil its Constitutional mandate. Such contributions from the SANDF, despite a tight fiscal environment, include:

  • The ongoing deployment of at least 1 269 SANDF members as part of the UN mandated peace support operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
  • The continued ability of the SA Navy to provide vessels for conducting anti-piracy operations in the Mozambican channel.
  • The provision of 15 sub-units for border patrols along the extended South African land borders.
  • The SANDF’s community-interactions in 2018/19 through its Armed Forces week in Cape Town, its participation in the Rand Easter Show, it displays at the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa, and many other such events.
  • Today we celebrate Major Mandisa Mfeko the first black woman combat fighter pilot and Lieutenant Colonel Tiisetso Sekgobela for successful return home, after a year of commanding a battalion in the DRC as the first black woman.

Chairperson

A key development within the defence domain is the need for South Africa to adequately arm itself to deal with the dilemma of modern military threats. Crucially, the SANDF should develop an Information Warfare (Cyber Warfare) capability. The 2019 APP indicates that the DOD will “implement robust network security architecture, including appropriate segregation and segmentation between the IT and control system (including weapons systems) networks using firewalls and intrusion prevention and detection tools.” Furthermore, in 2019, the DOD will continue consultation with stakeholders towards the development of a comprehensive Cyber Warfare Strategy. This groundwork represents an important first step towards building a cyber-defence capability. We will continue to monitor developments in this regard and urge future funding requirements to be cognisant of the need for a cyber-defence capability.

Honourable Members

Transformation of the defence industry remains a critical strategic goal. In this regard, DOD established the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC) last year to facilitate a platform for Government support and repositioning of the Defence Industry. 

The NDIC has already developed the Defence Industry Strategy and the Defence Industry Charter, providing pathways for the transformation and growth of the Defence Industry-paving the way for youth and women to participate in this industry.

Conclusion

The department of defence has done well to balance its budget and its budget addresses its main priorities irrespective of the challenges of a shrinking budget over the years. The South African defence force continues to fulfil its constitutional imperatives to “defend and protect” extend beyond that engagement in major-combat operations to that safeguarding South Africa and its people in times of both conflict and peace. South Africa and its borders, strategic installations and air, maritime continues to be protected. The ANC support vote.