Johannesburg – Chairperson of South Africa’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Cyril Xaba, says the Islamist insurgency in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province highlights the need for African states to invest in their military capacity to better deal with security threats.
At a webinar on South Africa’s defence budget, co-hosted by the Centre for Military Studies and the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa at the University of Stellenbosch this week, Mr Xaba said there was an urgent need to interrogate how defence forces fit into broader macro-economic planning.
“Defence budgets dropped in most African countries but I hope what happened in Mozambique will awaken governments to treat the issue of defence with extreme consideration,” he said.
Mr Xaba said in 1989 South Africa was among the top 20 military spenders in the world, but that had since changed. Today, he said, the South African military was not getting sufficient funding for adequate re-equipping and training.
“In late 2020 the Department of Defence indicated a reduction in capacity due to funding constraints … National treasury declined a parliamentary recommendation on the ring-fencing of additional funding of SA Navy frigates and submarines. These matters will require further engagement by the committee chair,” Mr Xaba added.
He also pointed out that while defence spending has been shrinking, operational commitments expanded greatly after 2001, both regionally and continentally.
Dr Nina Mari Taylor from the University of Stellenbosch’s Faculty of Military Science noted that Africa’s rising debt to GDP ratio was eating into defence expenditure.
The lower spending also meant fewer people were being recruited into the military.
“We can’t gain more revenue if we don’t have more growth. The defence budget in most countries has decreased placing a great deal of pressure on the armed forces to maintain a standing army for territorial protection. Focus needs to be placed on maintaining an economic environment that will promote growth and thus increase revenue allocations. The recommendation is that continued focus be placed on reducing debt/GDP ratio; reducing the gap between governments spending and revenue, and avoiding a credit downgrade.”
Professor Anthoni van Nieuwkerk weighed in saying poverty and inequality were threats to national security, and crime and corruption resulted in instability and insecurity, which in turn demanded the increased attention of governments and the security sector.