As the leader of the FF Plus, I have over the last fifteen years stated numerous times during the Defence budget that more money should be allocated to the Defence Force to ensure that South Africa does not end up with a ‘tattered army’.
It did not happen and as forewarned; the Defence Force has now reached that point of utter decline.
A media report in Rapport (“Bankrot weermag se R220 m.-maritime”, 19 February 2023) about the Armed Forces Day celebrations in Richards Bay paints a sombre picture of the sheer extent of the decline.
According to the report, the Defence Force only has two front-line fighter jets left, one operational frigate and a logistics wing that cannot even afford to pay for the army orchestra’s fuel.
Members of the orchestra reportedly had to pay out of their own pockets for their transport from Cape Town, where the SONA was delivered, to Richards Bay.
It points to the utter decline of the Defence Force, while it is still, on the other hand, squandering money by spending R220 million on parade in Richards Bay, according to the report.
In the process, discipline and order have been lost. Photos accompanying the Rapport report show soldiers being forced to stay in tattered tents on a floodplain while generals were accommodated in five-star guest houses.
The photo of the tattered tents is, in fact, symbolic of the state of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
It is becoming more and more evident that all components of the Defence Force have declined to a large extent. Reportedly, there is not enough money to ensure that the army’s computer system does not overheat.
Moreover, R26 million could not be found in the budget to provide the equipment needed to maintain the entire data system, which is used for, among other things, salary payments and procurements.
And yet there is R220 million available to host a prestigious event to impress Russia and China and create the impression that South Africa’s Defence Force is ready and able. Quite the opposite is, however, true.
In addition to that, the SANDF is burdened with top management of generals who earn enormous salaries.
According to an article on DefenceWeb (3 February 2021; SANDF is top-heavy with generals – Parliamentary research report), there were already 400 generals in the army at the time. There was one general for every 184 other individuals.
It raises the question of whether it is really worth it to budget more tax money for the Defence Force if it will simply be squandered in this way.
The FF Plus is of the view that the celebrations in Richards Bay should not have taken place. That R220 million could have been put to much better use.
The condition of the army’s equipment is equally shocking. Pilots are sitting on their hands because only two of the 26 Gripen fighter jets, which cost billions of rand, are operational.
Only four of the Air Force’s 11 Rooivalk attack helicopters are serviceable and there is basically no warship that can participate in the military exercise with Russia and China.
The Navy only has two ships participating in this controversial exercise, one of which is a survey ship, which is more than fifty years old, and the other is the frigate SAS Mendi.
The Defence Force must seriously reconsider its top management, particularly regarding their salaries, and enforce discipline from the top down.
Taxpayers cannot be expected to keep shelling out for the SANDF’s squandering on needless luxuries, while what really matters goes to ruin.
By Dr. Pieter Groenewald