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Defence Force fighting for survival while money is squandered

While there is no stopping the decay of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), money is still being squandered on a large scale.

According to the reply to a parliamentary question by Dr Pieter Groenewald, leader of the FF Plus, to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thandi Modise, it seems that the official home of the Defence Force chief in Waterkloof has been standing vacant since 30 November 2021.

Just the utility rates, including power, water and sanitation, for the past 28 months amount to R251 128. The house on the corner of Edward and Rose Street is also still being guarded by military personnel.

According to the Minister, the property needs renovations and “due to the high cost of maintenance and repair work”, it will only be undertaken in the new financial year.

I will ask the Minister in a follow-up question to indicate the extent of the repairs to the house, how the damage was caused and what it will cost to repair.

If the damage to the house is so extensive that it has been uninhabitable for the last 28 months, it raises the question of whether the former Chief of the SANDF, Gen. Soilly Shoke, vandalised the house.

Information tabled by the Department of Defence’s Internal Audit Committee to the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence earlier this year details the shocking squandering of money by the SANDF.

According to the Committee, R430 million was squandered in the previous financial year, of which only R800 was recovered. That is a mere 0,002%.

Irregular expenditure amounted to R15,98 billion, of which only R76 000 was recovered. More than R3 million was paid for properties of which the lease contracts had lapsed long ago already.

The allegations levelled against the former Speaker of the NA and Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, reveal how millions of rand flowed between Defence Force contractors and persons who reportedly accepted bribes.

The Defence Force maintains that it is decaying because its budget is insufficient.

The financial shortfall is so serious that proper air support cannot be provided to South African soldiers deployed elsewhere in Africa. It already costs a whopping R2,5 billion just to deploy soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The SANDF’s military bases across the country have decayed to such an extent that it will cost an estimated R8 billion to repair.

Last year, R220 million was spent on a Defence Force celebration in Richards Bay, while the Air Force has only two serviceable front-line fighter planes and one frigate at its disposal.

The logistics wing did not even have the funds to procure diesel to transport the Force’s orchestra to the celebrations. According to media reports, orchestra members had to pay their travelling expenses between Cape Town and Richards Bay themselves.

On top of that, the SANDF is burdened by a top management of nearly 400 generals earning enormous salaries. That is one general for every 184 people in the Defence Force. Top management should urgently be cut back.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, more than R30 million was wasted on vaccines which could not be used.

That is, however, nothing compared to the hundreds of millions of rand squandered and stolen through irregularities related to Covid-19 procurement processes for quarantine facilities and PPE.

All in all, the biggest loss is losing a fully prepared, professional and disciplined Defence Force. The entire SANDF has decayed, just like the house in Waterkloof.

Taxpayers cannot be expected to keep shelling out for this.

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