Strained army faces collapse

THE South African National Defence Force is on the verge of collapse - unless there is drastic intervention.

With dwindling budgets, increasing loss of highly skilled technical staff and less spending on training and equipment, the defence force - according to military experts - can barely meet its constitutional obligations.

Increasing international demands and frequent internal deployments is placing further strain on the already overstretched arms of service.

Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said that, across the spectrum, the defence force was in collapse.

"We have huge sections of the budget spent on salaries with equipment and training left lacking. We are hopelessly short on manpower - 20,000 troops too few and porous borders which cannot be guarded properly," he said.

The department received just over R34-billion last year from Treasury. Its current budget is R37-billion and is expected to increase to R39-billion in the 2013-2014 financial year.

Professor Renfrew Christie, University of the Western Cape dean of research, said the military's budget needed a drastic increase.

"Currently we spend 1% of the GDP on defence. There are things out there far worse than not going to school. We need a military capable of looking after our country with the time now coming to increase spending to 2% of GDP."

He said peacekeeping and peacemaking requirements placed on South Africa by the rest of Africa dictated an increase in spending.

"To do our duty we need a bigger and better equipped military. The option of down-scaling our involvement north of our borders is not an option," he said.

Retired Admiral Chris Bennett, former naval chief of staff, said the massive "poaching" of technical staff had led to the crises.

"Our military, especially on the technical side, is being bled dry by both public and private industries as well as foreign militaries," he said.

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