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South Africa sets 5 years to stem military decline

Published on 23/07/2014

Continental military power South Africa committed Wednesday to save its armed forces from meltdown within five years, amid budget constraints and increasing involvement in peacekeeping missions around Africa.

A review earlier this year found the South African Defence Force (SANDF) was in a “critical state of decline” after two decades of underfunding.

“We do not have a choice, but to respond with urgency to put plans to arrest the decline within the current five years, starting immediately during this financial year,” said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Wednesday.

“Although the SANDF is still able to maintain operational presence, if we do not start now, the decline will get worse,” she told parliament in her budget speech.

The ministry projects a $4 billion (3 billion euro) budget for the year, or 1.3 percent of the 2013 GDP — far below the 2.0 percent of GDP the minister said in April would be necessary to fix the military.

“Our mandate in the next five years is to act fast to restore the minimum capabilities required to safeguard South Africa, protect its maritime resources and trade routes, conduct peace missions and humanitarian interventions,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.

South Africa’s once feared and respected defence force has been hit by budget cuts and much of its equipment is no longer fit for purpose. The 100,000-strong force is also bleeding skilled personnel.

As one of Africa’s military powerhouses, South Africa has deployed troops to peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan’s Darfur.

It previously sent troops to Burundi, Lesotho and the Central African Republic. Its navy has also recently begun patrolling the coast of neighbouring Mozambique to ward off pirates.