SANDF making progress recruiting white South Africans - minister

The Defence Minister says South Africa needs a political solution, not a military one.

Cape Town – The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was making progress in recruiting young white people, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday. But there was still room for improvement, she said.

The minister was presenting her budget vote speech in Parliament, where she raised concerns over the department's reduced budget.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the recruitment of white people remained an area of concern and more work needed to be done.

There were currently 103 young white recruits undergoing training as part of the 2016 intake, she said. This was a 2% increase from the year before.

The minister also said progress was being made in the quest for gender equity in the defence force.

Withdrawal from Sudan

Mapisa-Nqakula also touched on the withdrawal of troops from the Darfur region of Sudan, who were first deployed in 2008.

She said they had encountered a number of problems in the area, and the Sudanese government had made it difficult for them to provide logistical support to the troops.

A team of logistical experts were managing the withdrawal of the SANDF assets over a six-month period, she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula said the decision to withdraw was not an easy one and they had tried as much as possible to follow proper procedure.

"We did not abandon the mission because we are irresponsible," she said.

Soldiers recalled

Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs that they had recalled 47 soldiers from enforcement missions in the DRC due to disciplinary infringements.

"They have been subsequently discharged," she said.

Addressing media earlier, the department said the soldiers had endangered their lives and those of their colleagues by "deserting their station".

They were declared not fit to be part of the military, the department said.

Budget constraints

Mapisa-Nqakula bemoaned the decreasing budget of the department. She said the department was consistently 50% underfunded.

The budget for the year 2016/17 was R47bn, approximately 1.05% of the Gross Domestic Product.

She said indications were the budget would decline to 1.03% of the GDP in 2017/18 and to 0.98% of GDP by 2018/19.

The minister took a hard line and said this should be a watershed budget debate. She said the country had to determine if it wanted to keep the national defence force going, or shut it down.

"If people take the National Defence Force seriously, people need to invest in it," she said.

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