Defence budget up by three percent to R48.6 billion
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s national budget for the 2017/18 financial year sees defence and public safety getting R198.7 billion to ensure South Africa’s territorial sovereignty is maintained as well as keeping South Africans safe – a Constitutionally set imperative for both the national defence force and the police service. The bulk of the allocation – R93.5 billion or 47.2% goes to what National Treasury calls “police services”. Defence and state security, in the form of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its managing arm the Department of Defence (DoD) along with Minister David Mahlobo’s State Security Agency gets R54 billion (27.2%). Law courts and prisons have a 22% (R42.8 billion) share of the national defence and public safety budget with home affairs receiving the balance of R7.2 billion (3.6%), some of which will presumably be spent on the Border Management Agency, which indications are will become operational in the 2017/18 financial year. The Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) show the DoD/SANDF as being on the receiving end of R48 618 million for the 2017/18 financial year to “defend and protect the Republic of South Africa, its territorial integrity and its peoples”. This is an increase of just under R1.5 billion on the 2016/17 budget and is well below the inflation rate currently standing at six percent plus.
The ENE points out that over the medium term the DoD will spend almost 80% of its budget on “compensation of employees and related goods and services as the DoD’s core activities are labour intensive”. In line with an overall government commitment to decreasing and containing costs the ENE notes that wages and salaries will be reduced by R1.9 billion in the current financial year and even more to R2.9 billion in the 2018/19 financial cycle. This follows a Cabinet decision to lower the national aggregate expenditure ceiling. The small increase in overall funding to the country’s military means there will not be an increase in the number of personnel deployed on border protection duties. Operation Corona will continue to have 15 companies for the 2017/18 financial year. The number of defence attaché offices will also remain at 44 as part of cost savings. The long-awaited naval acquisitions of in- and offshore patrol vessels are still on hold, notwithstanding Armscor having announced preferred bidders earlier this month. According to Treasury the patrol vessel acquisitions have been deferred to the 2018/19 financial cycle with the replacement hydrographic vessel acquisition approved for the current financial year. The SA Air Force’s plans to acquire medium and light transport aircraft in the maritime and transport category, precision-guided ammunition and new generation mobile communications is also on hold. According to the ENEs this will take place in 2019/20 and see an amount of R1.4 billion spent on the airborne arm of the SANDF.