Forces: July 15, 2002


: With the 9 July launch of the African Union (AU), many eyes are on South Africa's National Defense Force (SANDF) to provide a core Rapid Response Brigade (see also ). However, members of South Africa's Parliament and regionally-respected African Armed Forces Journal publisher Peter McIntosh are accusing the SANDF of "Enron-style" accounting, asserting that the military can no longer be considered ready to discharge its constitutional mandate. 

The SANDF can currently project only a single battalion abroad for peacekeeping, in addition to deploying a few hundred troops at home in support of the police. In May, South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota asked the government to extend the SANDF deployment in Burundi for another six months. 

Of the army's 168 Olifant tanks and 242 Rooikat armored cars, the Members of Parliament (from the African National Congress, the New National Party and the Democratic Alliance) heard at a 21-22 June SANDF briefing that only four tanks and eight Rooikat armored cars were in operation. The SANDF has one Tank and one Armored Car (Rooikat) Regiment, each of which should field 40 armored vehicles.

Seventy percent of the army's annual allocation now goes directly to salaries leaving not enough money to operate the defense force. The 52 battalions and 183 commando units of the SANDF reserves are in even more dire straits. They needed $26.36 million (R264-million) a year to function properly, but the 2002 allocation was only $659,000 (R6,6-million) in May and was cut again. Lekota told the press in June that, unlike the apartheid regime that spent 9% of it's budget on defense, the present government brought it down to less than 6.5% (about 1.7% of South Africa's GNP).

Defense spokesman Hendrik Schmidt described the present state of affairs as shocking: "The SANDF is experiencing critical and major human resource challenges. The number of members whose age and health profile do not meet the SANDF requirements average around 53 % of all personnel." 

African Armed Forces Journal publisher Peter McIntosh believes the root of the problem is not a lack of money, but a lack of responsibility and accountability on the part of the SANDF's leadership. The former SADF Colonel considers the "lack of funds" an excuse and called on those generals to show whom among them warned Parliament of it's folly, as well as to what extent they protested its implementation.. Instead of blaming politicians for the excessive number of generals and the unworkable structure developed by an auditing firm at a cost of around $5.9 million (R60-million), he suggested that their resignation would be "the honorable thing to do." 




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