South Africa has big plans to expand its involvement in Africa. To implement these, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, has a vision and a 400-page Defence Review to guide her in developing the capabilities of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to match the national, regional and continental role envisaged by cabinet and the Presidency. Yet she will need support and additional funds: quite a lot of it too, judging by the recommendations in the review.
After being in limbo for almost 16 years, with no review of its role since 1998, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) now has a new blueprint for the future. The 2014 Defence Review was approved by cabinet and has been cleared for publication, following a lengthy process that started in mid-2011. It takes into account South Africa’s increasing role in peacekeeping in Africa and will form a basis for funding allocated to the military. However, the strategy should be implemented soon to stop the decline of the defence sector that has resulted from a lack of funds and overstretching of its capabilities.
Years of under-spending and a mismatch between missions and funding have had dramatic consequences. For example, where the 1998 Review provided for one battalion to be deployed externally for a year, the SANDF has had at least two battalions deployed for peacekeeping since 2001 – three for a decade and briefly four – along with smaller elements. Today it has a battalion group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), plus a battalion in Darfur and a frigate in the Mozambique Channel. In the interim, the government also changed its mind and instructed the SANDF to again take over responsibility for border safeguarding.