No expanded deployment for Operation Corona due to lack of funding
Indications are any plans to expand the presence of soldiers on South Africa’s landward borders will not happen if the current status quo as far as financing is concerned remains in place. According to an analysis done for Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), there is “a significant reduction” in the number of Reserve Force mandays from 2,7 million in the 2016/17 financial year to 1,8 million in the current financial year. With by far the majority of soldiers deployed on Operation Corona border protection duties coming from Reserve Force units, it appears the military will be hard-pressed to maintain the present commitment. This sees 15 companies, sub-units, in parliamentary jargon, currently deployed along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Planning was for the number on companies deployed to increase by one, possibly two, a year to a maximum of 22. Senior Reserve Force officers have privately told defenceWeb “it is and will remain a problem”. Other areas of concern raised in the analysis, tabled at last week’s meeting of the JSCD are personnel numbers. The meeting took place ahead of the Department of Defence’s budget presentation to the National Assembly, scheduled for May 25.
The lack of a suitable exit mechanism will not see retrenchment of any SANDF personnel, uniformed or civilian, in the 2017/18 financial year. This goes against the grain of recommendations in the Defence Review, started as far back as 2012 and renamed the Defence Review 2015, as far as milestone one is concerned. The analysis points out the Department of Defence (DoD) is unlikely to be able to reduce personnel figures by “roughly 9 000 in one year” and advises JSCD members to ask if there are plans in place to effect the personnel reduction noted in the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENEs). “If so, how will it be done and what will the cost be. If personnel are not reduced how will the shortfall in salaries be addressed?” are other questions the oversight committee should seek answers to. Earlier this month, defenceWeb posed questions to the DoD head of communications on similar issues and was told the Minister “would address the issues” during her budget vote.