The South African Department of Defence (DoD) has detailed its priorities for the 2017/18 financial year, which include border safeguarding, peacekeeping operations, cyber warfare and expanded maritime security.
These priorities were outlined in its 2017 Annual Performance Plan. General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), stated that “notwithstanding the challenges it faces with regard to persistent budget cuts and ageing equipment [the SANDF] will still be involved in, amongst others, peace support operations in the African continent; continue to contribute to Border Safeguarding; endeavour to improve its landward and maritime defence capabilities particularly in terms of mobility and embark in a process that will help Arrest the Decline of our capabilities as indicated in the Defence Review 2015.”
The DoD emphasised the importance of border security and improvements that will be made in this regard, specifically with the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Maritime Security Strategy.
“The focus of the SA Navy continues to remain on the preparation of naval forces for operations in support of the Maritime Security Strategy,” the Performance Plan stated. “The conducting of naval operations that involves patrols in the Mozambique Channel for the prevention of piracy-related activities remains a National and Departmental priority.”
Naval patrols may be extended, with the report stating that, “it is envisaged that resourced naval operations, as part of anti-piracy operations, may expand to the western coastline of Africa in the future. Increased cooperation with Namibia and Angola will demand more SA Navy participation and patrolling of the West Coast.
“Maritime Security will require continued capacity building in (regional) Maritime Domain Awareness to ensure a safe and secured SADC Maritime environment. This can essentially be achieved through Joint International Military exercises and other forms of military cooperation with strategic partners such as the BRICS defence forces to cite but some.”
The South African Navy will mainly be tasked with containing maritime crime relatively close to shore and working with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to safeguard South Africa’s maritime resources.
On the landward side, the Department of Defence envisages the Border Management Agency being fully established this year and becoming responsible for the management of South Africa’s borderline and the country’s ports of entry.
“The South African Government has prioritised the matter of the RSA’s porous borders that leads to the influx of undocumented migrants into South Africa. As part of the BMA, the SANDF will continue to safeguard the borders (air, land and maritime borders) of the RSA.”
For the 2017/2018 period the SANDF will continue to deploy 15 sub-units, or companies, on border safeguarding duties in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West provinces.
“The DoD will ensure alignment and cooperation with the BMA to effect the legal framework requirements as prescribe by the BMA Bill. Continued participation and representation at all forums to facilitate the implementation and operationalisation of the BMA, remain critical to the successful co-existence in the border environment,” the Performance Plan stated.
Other internal SANDF priorities include disaster support, supporting the South African Police Service and humanitarian assistance including drought relief and search and rescue operations. Regarding drought relief, the SANDF has provided water bunkers to assist Provincial Disaster Management Centres.
With regard to external deployments, the DoD stated that “During the FY2017/18 the SANDF deployment in peace support operations (PSOs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the auspices of the United Nations Mission (MONUSCO) will continue with an Infantry Battalion plus supporting elements, supported by Rooivalk and Oryx helicopters. Selected specialist SANDF elements, amongst them combat and construction engineers, military observers and staff officers, are deployed in and around the capital city of Kinshasa, whilst the bulk of the SANDF elements are deployed as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern parts of the DRC.”
With an eye to the future, the Performance Plan predicts that “during SANDF deployments in support of international peace support operations, the SANDF will increasingly face rising tensions globally, hybrid threats that contain a mixture of international and non-international forms of conflict, and the problem of weak and failing states. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) is also expected to increase.”
“Although no international armed conflict threat against South Africa is foreseen in the next five years, conflicts in Africa may require the deployment of SANDF members who will face armed groupings using heavy conventional weapons.” As a result, the DoD “will focus on the preparation of its forces (structure and training doctrine) to encounter the future complex military situations.”
The DoD takes note of growing instability around the world and the changing nature of warfare. “While the nature of war is not expected to change, the SANDF takes note that the character of conflict and war is changing and constantly evolving. Conflicts will continue to evolve, as the SANDF and potential belligerents adapt to advances in science and technology, improved weapons, and changes in the security environment.”
One of the areas that is expected to change is in the cyberspace domain and the DoD has cautioned that “cyber and terror attacks remain a possibility to contemplate.” As a result, it is developing the National Cyber Warfare Strategy and Implementation Plan and will contribute, pending resource allocation, towards capacitating a Cyber-security Institution through the establishment of a Cyber Command Centre Headquarters, scheduled for the 2018/19 financial year.