SANDF on brink of closing shop over budget cuts

Parliament - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has warned that the military could be forced to close shop if budget cuts, now sitting at R5.5 billion, continue.

The minister told Parliament on Wednesday, during her budget vote speech, that these budget cuts had led to several problems for the military.

She was backed by some of the opposition parties, with African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart calling on fellow MPs to use their power to amend the budget.

Swart said the Money Bills Act allows MPs to amend the budget and they should invoke this legislation to appropriate more funds to the military.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the budget cuts would amount to R5.5bn over the next three years.

She said this was untenable as the SA National Defence Force needed to be properly maintained.

The budget cuts started a few years ago, and the National Treasury has effected more cuts.

Mapisa-Nqakula said they were talking to the Treasury to get more funds.

She said that this year alone, R1.8bn would be taken from her department. This would continue for the next two years.

“Honourable members must take note that this will have serious implications on the defence function of the Republic of South Africa,” she said.

She said the R5.5bn reduction in the defence budget over the next three years would lead to low salaries, an ageing force, insufficient members to sustain operations, loss of expertise and an increased skills gap.

In a media briefing earlier, Mapisa-Nqakula said the budget vote debate was decisive in determining whether the SANDF could continue or would close shop.

She added that if people took the SANDF seriously, they must invest in it.

The minister said the budget for the military was lower than international standards.

The budget of the army was at 0.98 percent of the national budget, which was very low by international standards, she said.

“This country needs to decide whether it needs the SANDF to fulfil its obligations or whether the SANDF should close shop,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

Things cannot continue the way they were, she told the media.

Asked about the R4bn that her department wants to spend to buy a jet for President Jacob Zuma, Mapisa-Nqakula denied the jet would cost that amount.

She said this figure was thumb-sucked by somebody for their own reasons.

However, they would buy the jet because the current aircraft was ageing.

She pointed out that both Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had been involved in incidents where their planes experienced malfunctions.

Zuma was in Burundi recently when his plane failed to take off, and they had to charter a flight for him. The same happened when Zuma was in Russia a few months ago.

Ramaphosa was not spared either as he also had to get on other planes or cancel trips because of mechanical failure of the state aircraft. Mapisa-Nqakula said they were still determining the cost of the plane for Zuma.

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