In­suf­fi­cient fund­ing for the SA Na­tional De­fence Force has re­sulted in doubts be­ing cast on our abil­ity to hon­our in­ter­na­tional mar­itime agree­ments. ex­plores what can be done

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In her bud­get speech, De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula de­scribed her de­part­ment’s fi­nan­cial woes as a “a se­ri­ous mis­match be­tween the cur­rent fund­ing al­lo­ca­tion and the ex­pec­ta­tions placed on the de­part­ment of de­fence”. Bud­get con­straints have crip­pled the SA Na­tional De­fence Force, forc­ing it to re­frain from per­form­ing its key func­tions, which are de­fined by De­fence Re­view 2015 as the strate­gic need for mar­itime ca­pa­bil­ity.

The word “mar­itime” is men­tioned 215 times in a 344-page doc­u­ment and al­ludes to ca­pa­bil­i­ties such as fight­ing piracy, ter­ror­ism, smug­gling, hu­man traf­fick­ing, poach­ing and il­le­gal fish­ing, as well as com­bat­ing oil pol­lu­tion.

The re­view de­scribes mar­itime in­se­cu­rity as one of six prom­i­nent driv­ers of African in­se­cu­rity.

The oth­ers are com­pe­ti­tion over scarce re­sources, poverty, un­der­de­vel­op­ment, poor hu­man se­cu­rity and en­demic dis­eases.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, South Africa’s mar­itime re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clude the over­sight of a sea sur­face area. This trans­lates to the sea’s en­tire vol­ume, from sur­face to ocean floor, which in some parts is more than 11km deep. This area is more than 12 times the coun­try’s land sur­face area (see graphic).

It ex­tends be­yond the three Eco­nomic Ex­clu­sion Zones (EEZ) of Dur­ban, Port El­iz­a­beth and Cape Town. And a third of the EEZ is lo­cated around the Prince Ed­ward Is­lands, com­pris­ing the two small is­lands of Prince Ed­ward and Mar­ion, in the south­ern In­dian Ocean.

The na­tional de­fence force is there­fore obliged to as­sist in all search-an­dres­cue and re­cov­ery op­er­a­tions from Cape Town to the Antarc­tica in the south, as well as from Prime Merid­ian in the west to the Prince Ed­ward Is­lands.

Its func­tions in­clude as­sist­ing sur­vivors of civil air­craft ac­ci­dents and help­ing in the event of forced land­ings and ditch­ing – a term de­scrib­ing crash-land­ing into the wa­ter by an air­craft not de­signed for the pur­pose.

Mapisa-Nqakula be­moaned the fact that the de­fence force’s com­mit­ments, as de­fined in the De­fence Re­view doc­u­ment, ex­tended to the en­tire African con­ti­nent as part of its quest to ad­vance our na­tional in­ter­ests – yet faced a glar­ing lack of fi­nan­cial sup­port from the state.

The re­view also pointed out that to fully meet its man­date, the na­tional de­fence force would re­quire dou­ble the cur­rent fis­cus al­lo­ca­tion over the long term.

“In re­al­ity, the de­fence al­lo­ca­tion has been de­clin­ing by 5% per an­num in real terms, over the past 20 years, to a mere 1% of the gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP),” it noted.

“Mean­while, the ap­pro­pri­ate fund­ing level, as ar­tic­u­lated in the De­fence Re­view 2015, would re­quire a steady state in­crease to at least 2% of GDP over time.

“While there is great ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the com­pet­ing pres­sures on the fis­cus, the per­sis­tent and con­tin­ued dra­matic down­ward trend in real terms of the fund­ing al­lo­ca­tion to de­fence has reached a point where the de­part­ment of de­fence runs the risk of los­ing more of its es­sen­tial ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in ad­di­tion to those al­ready lost.”

What this means is that the na­tional de­fence force has reached lev­els where it is fail­ing to pro­tect 90% of South Africa’s im­ports and ex­ports es­sen­tial for the econ­omy and de­pen­dent on the sea.

Re­gard­ing mar­itime se­cu­rity, Mapisa-Nqakula spoke briefly about the SA Navy, say­ing it con­tin­ued to de­ploy ves­sels in sup­port of its mar­itime se­cu­rity strat­egy over the past year and had con­ducted three pro­tracted pa­trols in the Mozam­bique Chan­nel us­ing a frigate, an off­shore pa­trol ves­sel and the ship the SAS Drak­ens­berg, re­spec­tively.

She added that the de­fence force had also helped in dis­as­ter op­er­a­tions lo­cally and on the con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing with air­craft ac­ci­dents and fire dis­as­ters.

She made no men­tion of any ef­fort on the part of the de­fence force to com­ply with UN obli­ga­tions on mar­itime pa­trols and re­lated re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

South Africa is a sig­na­tory to the fol­low­ing three in­ter­na­tional mar­itime agree­ments: An­nex 12 of the UN’s Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion of 1944; The Safety of Life at Sea Con­ven­tion of 1974; and The In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion on Mar­itime Search and Res­cue of 1979. This is why the De­fence Re­view ad­vo­cates for the de­fence force to be “ro­bust, flex­i­ble and able to project and sus­tain joint land­ward, air, mar­itime, Spe­cial Forces and mil­i­tary health op­er­a­tions” over ex­tended dis­tances for pro­tracted pe­ri­ods on the con­ti­nent, the coun­try’s ter­ri­to­rial seas and high seas within its search-and-res­cue re­gion.

How­ever, South Africa is sad­dled with aged mar­itime pa­trol Dakota air­craft. Some of its search-and-res­cue air­craft were de­com­mis­sioned sev­eral years ago.

The SA Air Force used air­craft such as the Avro Shack­le­ton MR.3 (1958) and the Pi­ag­gio P166S “Al­ba­tross” (1969), but these were re­tired in the early 1990s.

That was when air­craft such as the C-47TP “Tur­boDak” (1943) and the C-130BZ “Her­cules” (1963) were up­graded. How­ever, these are now also show­ing signs of cor­ro­sion.

Sev­eral man­u­fac­tur­ers have ap­proached the de­fence min­istry, of­fer­ing var­i­ous types of mul­tipur­pose mil­i­tary trans­port and mar­itime pa­trol air­craft with proven coast guard mis­sions, law en­force­ment op­er­a­tions, pol­lu­tion con­trol and con­trol of the EEZ ar­eas.

They in­clude the mul­tipur­pose Lock­heed Martin C-130J Su­per Her­cules, used by the US Marine Corps and the Royal Air Force, as well as the Airbus CN-235 and C-295 planes, which are used by sev­eral air forces, in­clud­ing the Royal Cana­dian, In­done­sian, Peru­vian, Span­ish, Mex­i­can, Pol­ish and Egyp­tian air forces.

The air­craft needed for these op­er­a­tions should have ex­cel­lent low-level fly­ing qual­i­ties for mar­itime and sea op­er­a­tions. They need en­durance ca­pa­bil­i­ties to cover a wide area and must be able to fly in ex­treme weather con­di­tions, such as the strong winds that of­ten be­devil the West­ern Cape.

They should also have ob­server bub­ble win­dows with ex­cel­lent vis­ual cov­er­age, and the rear ramp must be equipped for parares­cue team op­er­a­tions. They are also ex­pected to do the fol­low­ing:

Con­duct search-and-res­cue mis­sions for sur­vivors of any mil­i­tary air­craft or ves­sel ac­ci­dents, pro­vided that these built struc­tures are not en­gaged in acts of war.

Co-or­di­nate the evac­u­a­tion of in­jured or ill peo­ple from a ves­sel at sea, where their con­di­tion re­quires ur­gent med­i­cal treat­ment – sooner than the ves­sel would be able to trans­port them to a suit­able med­i­cal fa­cil­ity.

South Africa has also signed in­ter­na­tional treaties with Namibia, An­gola, Mozam­bique, Tan­za­nia, Swazi­land and Le­sotho. This means it has to of­fer sim­i­lar UN op­er­a­tions to these neigh­bours should the need arise.

With mar­itime sur­veil­lance hav­ing be­come a chal­lenge in the past decade, es­pe­cially in re­gions where mar­itime ac­tiv­i­ties or traf­fic rep­re­sent a ma­jor eco­nomic in­ter­est, South Africa is in­creas­ingly ex­pected to con­sider other tech­nolo­gies to mon­i­tor its vast sea and land ter­ri­to­ries in a cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner.

Ac­cord­ing to Di­dier Blet, the se­nior man­ager of busi­ness devel­op­ment at Airbus De­fence and Space, some coun­tries are in­creas­ingly deal­ing with threats such as smug­gling, il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion or piracy us­ing satel­lite tech­nol­ogy.

The use of pa­trol ves­sels and air­craft has been limited in South Africa, com­pared with large-scale ar­eas and ac­tiv­i­ties that are mon­i­tored through this tech­nol­ogy. Satel­lite sys­tems pro­vide com­ple­men­tary in­for­ma­tion which op­ti­mises the cost of op­er­a­tions at sea.

Ex­perts ar­gue that the ben­e­fits of us­ing satel­lites to sup­port mar­itime sur­veil­lance mis­sions can off­set the hope­less sit­u­a­tion fac­ing the na­tional de­fence force.

Satel­lite costs are fixed, what­ever the dis­tance tar­geted, and this tech­nol­ogy can cover or mon­i­tor ar­eas of in­ter­est reg­u­larly. But the coun­try will only be able to pay for satel­lite types that mon­i­tor tar­geted ar­eas.

“South Africa will be tap­ping into an ex­ist­ing global re­source and sign­ing up to utilise ex­ist­ing satel­lites that are al­ready fly­ing above our space,” said Blet.

“There will be no ge­o­graph­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion as the satel­lite can ac­quire im­ages both ashore and off­shore, in the na­tional ter­ri­tory and abroad.”

Some coun­tries use the tech­nol­ogy to help fish­eries man­age­ment agen­cies and law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity au­thor­i­ties op­ti­mise their tra­di­tional ways of mon­i­tor­ing.

South Africa can start by mon­i­tor­ing limited ar­eas. Over time, it can work with of­fi­cials in the de­part­ments of agri­cul­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs by ac­cept­ing re­quests at short no­tice to sup­port emer­gency op­er­a­tions.

De­tec­tion re­ports would be com­piled to build statis­tics and iden­tify pat­terns at sea, such as the con­cen­tra­tion of ves­sels, their ac­tiv­i­ties and main flows.

There will be no real-time con­straints to pro­cess­ing such ac­tiv­i­ties. This will en­able the navy or air force to re­act im­me­di­ately.

TALK TO US Are there any other ways, be­sides state fi­nance, that you can sug­gest for our na­tional de­fence force to be funded? Are there un­nec­es­sary ex­penses to be cut?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word DE­FENCE and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50


CASH-STRAPPED Min­is­ter of De­fence No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has be­moaned the state’s de­clin­ing fund­ing for her de­part­ment

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