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