Reprioritising defence budget allocations can put seven more companies on border protection duty
The Minister of Defence maintains “continuous reductions” in the defence budget hamper efforts to make South Africa’s borders more secure. Not so says Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow finance minister, David Maynier. Among the 405 amendments to the national budget he has tabled in the National Assembly is one that will see close to a thousand more soldiers deployed as part of the national border protection tasking Operation Corona. And it is not going to mean more money from the taxpayer. He said ahead of today’s meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations all the amendments are budget neutral. “They will be funded by re-prioritising expenditure within the existing budget and will have no effect on the fiscal deficit, estimated at R149 billion or minus just over three percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the current financial year,” he said. Maynier, who was previously the DA’s go-to man on defence and military veterans, points out South Africa is vulnerable to organised crime syndicates, illegal immigration and stock theft “because of 46 862 kilometre landward border is a wide open door”.
“The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) aims to maintain 15 sub-units (companies), about 2 025 soldiers on our landward borders, well below the 22 sub-units, just short of three thousand soldiers required. “We have simply not prioritised border safeguarding sufficient and will spend more on VIP Protection Services (R1,4 billion) than the R1,0 billion allocated to border safeguarding,” Maynier said adding it was imperative to up border protection. To do this he will propose an amendment to the appropriation of Vote 19: Defence and Military Veterans to provide seven more companies for deployment as part of Operation Corona in the current financial year. If approved, this will see R483 million added to the budget for border protection. Other amendments proposed by Maynier include an additional R174 million to fight corruption, an extra R688 million to establish a stand-alone specialised unit in the SA Police Service to fight drug related crime and an additional R1,5 billion to provide more than 210 000 more work opportunities as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The funding for the amendments comes from firewalling 13 national departments, a freeze on new employees in all 27 national departments and cutting spending on budget items including advertising, catering, communication, consultants, fleet services, consumable supplies, consumables, travel and subsistence, venues and facilities and entertainment.