Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula today acknowledged a defence force is an expensive asset – costly to develop and maintain – telling delegates to the inaugural National Defence Industry Council (NDIC) workshop in Centurion it was essential like an insurance premium but still remained “a grudge purchase”.
“The local defence industry cannot exist in a vacuum or develop efficiently without adequate government support,” Mapisa-Nqakula said. “Our intention is to ensure government rallies behind the defence industry with the ultimate objective of a transformed sector procuring and manufacturing locally.”
The NDIC was launched in March last year, a year later than initially envisaged, following recommendations in the Defence Review. Its main focus, according to the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans, is to ensure the South African defence industry receives “commendable government support to develop a footprint in the global defence market”. This is seen to happen while creating jobs and growing the local economy and helping to build a strong skills base for the sector.
As an example of the value of the local defence industry not only to South African but to the continent, Mapisa-Nqakula said it had contributed to the recovery of economies in, among others, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“South Africa’s peace dividend, calculated through its peace operations and related economic activity on the continent, contributed about R73 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with approximately 480 000 jobs in South Africa linked to these operations and activities on the continent,” she said.
“As a country we need a coherent defence industry strategy which commits both government and the defence industry to key deliverables, not only in support of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), but input in a clearly defined manner into our economic and other national objectives. The draft Defence Industry Strategy document is designed to provide guidelines for government on how it can support the defence industry, while industry is expected to transform, procure and manufacture locally, satisfy the defence requirements of the SANDF and to compete globally.”
The defence industry strategy will now be released for public comment and Mapisa-Nqakula asked the public, analysts, academia, defence industry experts, defence industry companies and the rest of the government departments to analyse and provide input. The document can be downloaded from the Department of Defence or Armscor websites.
The strategy has four courses of action – business as usual, planned shutdown, stabilise and sustain, and stabilise and develop with the recommended option to follow being “stabilise and sustain” she said.
This will be done against a background of continued financial challenges that will see government having less and less funding to stimulate, among others, the defence industry.
“It would have been unwise and difficult for us to depend on just domestic activity to launch the kind of industrialisation requirement and investment in skills and future initiatives. It is for this reason the work of the NDIC had to be aligned to the National Development Plan, as per the requirements of the Defence Review 2015,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula maintains in it in the best interests of South Africa to have a defence industry working with government to reduce reliance on export sales for sustainability due to limited local defence spending potential.
The 15 member NDIC is chaired by Secretary for Defence, Dr Sam Gulube, and comprises heads of government departments, chief executives of state-owned entities in the defence industry and captains of business and industry.
The first NDIC workshop was held at Denel Land Systems in Lyttelton. Acting Denel chief executive Zwelakhe Ntshepe said the state-owned defence and technology conglomerate has “a strong track record” of supporting local suppliers and providing training for black-owned companies through its supplier development programme.
Ntshepe sees the strategy opening up the local defence industry to women, the youth and military veterans as well as promoting innovation in the sector, contributing to a sustainable and profitable industrial sector.
An exhibition of Denel products complemented the workshop. On display were land, aeronautics, cyberspace and missile products.