South Africa’s army is a complete failure after it once competed with the top in the world. Not only is it underfunded and lacking critical skills and infrastructure, but a leaked audit report has found that its administration is also a complete mess – uncovering wasteful spending and illegal activity that is not being dealt with or even properly investigated.
The report outlines actions taken on the Auditor General of South Africa’s (AGSA) findings on the Department of Defence. It found that leadership within the army did not review the department’s compliance with supply chain management laws, nor did it take any of the recommended actions in the majority of investigations into the department’s failures.
Some of the key issues include:
According to the Sunday Times, which has seen the report, the report was sent to department heads by the AGSA for comment and is expected to be published at a later date.
The insights into the complete disregard for oversight and consequence management at the department of defence outline the ongoing crisis that has wreaked havoc on South Africa’s defence force.
South Africa’s military budget has suffered several cuts over the years, with several ministers in the portfolio warning that this is having a real-world effect on the army’s ability to defend the country. The AGSA’s findings however revealed that the money the army does get is being severely mismanaged.
Thandi Modise, the defence and military veterans minister, presented her departmental budget vote in May 2022, where she described the situation within the department as dire – expressing alarm at the number of qualified audits the department was getting.
She warned, however, that continued budget cuts put the country at risk, especially if more violent protests broke out. The decline in the performance of the South African economy placed significant pressure on government and households, she said, adding that it is becoming difficult to adequately meet all competing needs.
Modise believes these issues mean there is fertile ground for more instability in the country, adding that it could be further exacerbated by a lack of funding and resources for the SANDF.
“The historical downward trend in the defence allocation has not abated. It is likely to continue to the detriment of the SANDF and the demise of the defence industry.
“Honourable members will remember that we have a dire shortage of critical equipment currently, not to speak of future disasters and continuous climate change events, for example tents, water purification and distribution systems are critically low. Serviceable airframes and flying hours are also in a critical state.
“I must inform this house that the SANDF will be hard-pressed to respond to critical events in other provinces should the need arise. I state this with a very heavy heart – we are willing, but we lack resources. Unless there is a significant intervention – the cupboard will remain bare,” she said.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the former defence and military veterans minister in 2021 warned that South Africa is at risk of losing its state-owned defence industrial base and the ability to repair, maintain and overhaul most of its defence systems.
“The ability to maintain main equipment for operations has declined to the point where we need to ask if it is in fact viable to continue to throw resources at them,” she said at the time.
“This coupled with the demise of the defence industry, and in particular Denel, has placed us in a very precarious position.”
Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCODMV) have previously highlighted issues plaguing the sector, including an aging air force fleet and dilapidated infrastructure and equipment.