‘Show me a navy and I’ll show you the coun­try’

Finweek English Edition - - Letters - NIGEL PED­DIE

I EN­JOY Stephen Mul­hol­land’s col­umn but his con­tin­ued den­i­gra­tion of the South African Navy is in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Per­haps he’s cor­rect that there’s no im­me­di­ate threat. How­ever, his­tory has shown that a threat can de­velop overnight. You can’t raise a navy overnight; nor can a run down one be quickly re­stored. It takes around 15 years of train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence to pro­duce an of­fi­cer com­pe­tent to com­mand a war­ship. It takes a great deal longer to es­tab­lish the in­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide the train­ing and to sup­port com­bat ves­sels.

It takes gen­er­a­tions to build the cul­ture that gives mar­itime fight­ing per­son­nel the edge nec­es­sary to de­feat an en­emy. Ad­di­tion­ally, it must be borne in mind that sailors have more to mas­ter than their weapon sys­tems – they must also be com­pe­tent mariners.

There are few in­sti­tu­tions that project a na­tion’s depth of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ca­pa­bil­ity as ef­fec­tively as a navy. Show me a navy and I’ll show you the coun­try. I be­lieve that SA still has a world-class navy. It will cost a great deal less to main­tain it than to build it up from scratch at some fu­ture date.

Mul­hol­land should rather use his con­sid­er­able jour­nal­is­tic skills to tar­get the fund­ing and po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment con­straints that threaten to un­der­mine fight­ing ef­fi­ciency. We still have a core of ded­i­cated pro­fes­sion­als striv­ing for ex­cel­lence in the Se­nior Ser­vice. To sug­gest they’re a bur­den on the tax­payer is un­just. The South African Navy has served our coun­try and the free world with ded­i­ca­tion and hon­our. In terms of trade, ours is an is­land econ­omy de­pen­dent on safe and se­cure use of the seas around us.


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