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SANDF members face the chop

Plans are in progress to reduce the number of soldiers of the SA National Defence Force to 73 000 and reduce reserve force man-days, but experts warn budget cuts could result in the SANDF being weaker, older, and less skilled. On Wednesday, the secretary of defense, Sonto Kudjoe, and senior military leaders briefed Parliament on the funding models and cost containment plans for the SANDF.

A baseline budget to reduce the reserve force man-days to 1 990 259 will result in a R500 million reduction in wages. Should all the interventions be implemented, the SANDF could save R1.1 billion in the 2022/23 financial year, R1.5 billion in 2023/24 and R1.8 billion in 2024/25.

African Defence Review director Darren Olivier said these cuts would have a negative effect on the SANDF's capabilities, particularly its ability to conduct effective border patrol and support the police internally.

It would also result in the irreplaceable loss of scarce skills. "The SANDF's personnel numbers aren't arbitrary, they're defined by a chain of decisions that begins with a policy created at Cabinet level that defines our foreign and domestic policy and the role of a defence force within that.

"That then feeds into a determination of the force's mandate, the type, number, and scope of missions it's required to undertake, and the capabilities it's required to have," he added. Olivier added that the SANDF's mandate, required missions, and force structure were far more than what it receives in its annual budget.

"And it's getting worse each year because National Treasury is being allowed to force cuts on the SANDF [even to the point of interfering in personnel decisions] without any change to the SANDF's actual structure and missions.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that this continued mismatch, and lopsided squeezing of the SANDF, is going to result in mission failures and unnecessary deaths," he added. He said the plan to hold military intakes every second year would be disastrous.

Recruits

"The net result of this will be that the age distribution of the SANDF's combat personnel will get much worse because the SANDF isn't able to bring in enough recruits to replace ageing personnel and follow the 'up or out' principle. The signs are already there.

"The exit mechanisms for older personnel are also far from adequate because National Treasury refuses to fund them and so the SANDF can't make them attractive enough to make a real long-term difference."

Olivier added while the SANDF should not be immune from budget cuts, Cabinet needed to change policy and alter its missions and force structure to fit.

According to the Department of Defense's 2020/21 annual report, the planned average human resource capacity was 75 000 for the year ended 31 March 2021. "The actual human resource capacity as at 31 March 2021 was 72 322," the report said. Independent defense analyst Helmoed Heitman said budget cuts were necessary.

Sources: https://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2021-11-24-defence-department-making-a-mockery-of-accountability-portfolio-committee-chair/

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