Pre- Budget Vote media briefing by Hon Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister for Defence and Military Veterans
Ladies and gentlemen of the media this morning we will be presenting the defence budget vote 2019. Our presentation to you will give you a bird’s eye view into the defence portfolio and community of the military veterans. It is thus pertinent to note that this Defence Budget Speech today is consistent with my Constitutional duty to provide strategic direction to the entire Defence Function.
Consequently, we have developed a long-term strategic view focused on specific threats to the Sovereignty of South Africa and the Authority of the State. These amongst others include the porousness of our borders, the growing threat of terrorism and fundamentalism by extremist groups that is looming large and is a clear danger on the Continent. South Africa is not immune to this threat.
Organised and violent crime threaten and challenge the sovereignty, integrity and authority of the State. This cannot be allowed to persist. South Africa seeks to build safer communities, fight corruption and promote integrity through inter alia protecting the country’s borders. Today, South Africa remains a significant contributor to peace keeping operations on the Continent and we continue to have a significant presence in the DRC through MONUSCO and the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
We continue to conduct search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian operations across the home-front and in neighbouring countries when called upon. Of particular note has been our recent response to the regional disaster caused by cyclone IDAI as far afield as Mozambique and Malawi. Air assets and medical staff of the South African National Defence Force were deployed in a Disaster Relief Operation under Operation Chariot.
The Commander-in-Chief has ordered the SANDF to deploy in cooperation with the SAPS in the Western Cape Province to combat crime and stabilise the security situation through intelligence-led operations. The ongoing intelligence assessment will determine the right time for the withdrawal of the SANDF. Our Department will continue to support the broader economic and developmental initiatives of the 6th Administration.
In recent times we have:
- Intervened to stabilise the crisis at the Provincial Hospital in Mahikeng in the North West Province and rendered ‘essential services through the deployment of health professionals.
- Intervened to contain the raw sewerage spills into the Vaal River System through repairs of the sewage infrastructure in the Vaal River Project.
- Deployed engineers to assist the Ditsobotla Municipality in the North-West with regards to sewage system failure.
- Built bridges in those rural areas where there is an absence of infra-structure in isolated communities.
- Supported other institutions in fire-fighting, mountain and maritime search and rescue operations.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Over the last few years the Department of Defence has been forced to continuously adjust its plans downwards in response to the declining budget. The Defence Force is becoming progressively more unsustainable in terms of declining defence allocations. We have now reached the point where the Republic must decide on the kind of Defence Force it wants and what it can afford.
We need a frank discussion very soon as we risk the irreversible damage to the defence force as a whole. I am concerned about a matter involving a member related to the wearing of religious accoutrements together with official SANDF uniform. Against this background, I have requested the Chief of the South African National Defence Force to find an amicable solution to this issue at the earliest possible time and report to me.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We have taken a decision to amend the Military Veterans Act to clarify the definition of a “Military Veteran” and introduce Regulations to address the “Means Test”.
In conclusion, I want to re-emphasize the resource allocation challenges faced by the Defence Force. A comparative analysis of our SADC partners indicates how under-funded the SANDF is. Regional defence budgets are increasing whilst our defence budget is declining.
I thank you.