SADC obsessed with military spending

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> Splashes R253 million on military missions 

> R11.3 million spent on defence book 

By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) continues to spend billions of dollars on military activities at a time when the member countries’ economies are struggling to grow.

Apart from the large chunks of money included in SADC countries’ national budgets, the region is further spending money on military activities, which will amount to R253 million just for the 2017/18 financial year.

It is a region obsessed with spending money on military-related activities despite its ranking as one of the most peaceful regions in Africa.

Most of the R253 million is set to be gulped by exercises in Lesotho as the kingdom continues to struggle to restore peace and stability in the country.

Of the total amount, R133 million was for the Lesotho Contingent Mission. Over 300 personnel, including soldiers, police and civilian components were part of this mission that was deployed in the country in December 2017 to stabilise matters following the assassination of the Commander of the Lesotho Defence Force, Lieutenant General Khoantlhe Motšomotšo, in September 2017.

Another R107 million was also used for the SADC Organ Mission in Lesotho. 

Likewise, this assignment is earmarked to restore peace and order in the Kingdom.

In a meeting held in Pretoria, South Africa, SADC also approved R11.4 million towards conducting the Standby Force Command Post Exercise. 

The Southern Times understands that this exercise was conducted in Malawi last month. It involved about 500 military, police, and civilian personnel as pledged by member states from the standby roster.

Its overall objective is to practice and exercise SADC Standby Force’s Multidimensional Headquarters on the planning and conduct of Peace Support Operations in preparation for assuming the African Standby Force Roster from January to June 2019. 

It also aims to create a robust and credible SADC Standby Force that can withstand the test of time, available and ready to respond to any compelling situation anywhere in Africa.

Furthermore, SADC Secretariat has spent R11.3 million on publishing a book, called ‘Hashim Mbita’, of this amount R2.1 million was used to publish the book while R9.2 million is being used towards translating ‘Hashim Mbita’ into three SADC working languages (English, French and Portuguese.)

The publication composes of 10 volumes, which documents the history of the liberation struggles in southern African that sought to end colonial and apartheid rule in the region.

The publication presents events and stories of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In addition to these countries, the research covers the contributions of countries and organisations outside of the SADC region that played a key role in aiding the liberation movements in southern Africa.

 

Obsessed with military spending

 

Information shows that five of SADC’s biggest members have a combined defence budget of R67 billion for the 2018/19 financial year.

South Africa has the largest chunk of R47.9 billion, followed by Namibia with a budget of R6 billion.

Zimbabwe is third with a budget of R5.8 billion, while Zambia has allocated R4 billion to its defence ministry with Botswana also budgeting R3.6 billion for this current financial year.

The Botswana government is also looking for funds to buy fighter jets worth R23.8 billion.

Similarly, other SADC countries have also been buying military equipment.

In his budget speech, Namibia’s minister of finance, Calle Schlettwein defended the issue of spending on military activities. Schlettwein said building reliable security networks, it allows for secure growth for not only the country but also the region.

Despite spending billions of dollars on military activities to preserve peace in the region, the SADC region experienced some major challenges that led to losses of lives. Political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kingdom of Lesotho, Madagascar, and fresh elections violence in Zimbabwe were just some of the talking points in recent years.

Meanwhile, SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said despite some challenges, “the region remain relatively peaceful over the past year.”

The SADC Secretariat said it will continue to coordinate mediation support to the DRC, Lesotho and Madagascar as part of efforts to enhance conflict prevention in the region.  

Nico Horn, a Namibian Professor of human rights and constitutional law, said it is sad when the region continues to spend a lot of money on military activities while there are pressing human rights needs that citizens are still deprived of.

“Who is the enemy? Who is going to attack who? SADC is a relatively peaceful region yet we continue spending so much on military activities. 

Think of what kind of development the R67 billion can do for our region if we use that for other developmental activities,” he said.

Horn said it has been a long time since the war ended yet the region still has the cold war mentality. 

He added that the opposition parties in SADC are also not vocal when the defence budgets are being presented.

“They do not strongly oppose these kinds of things in parliament. What we need is a Green Peace type of organisation that has a strong influence on government decisions and advocates for gun control. In Namibia and SADC, we don’t have much influence. 

I can speak about it now but who will listen to Nico (Horn) to change government decisions,” said Horn, who has been nominated by the Namibian government to be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

 

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