SANDF combat readiness- some grave concerns

Discussion in 'Southern Africa' started by baboon6, Jun 20, 2012.

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  1. Devastating indictment of the current state of the SA Army. One can only hope that not all units are this bad:

    The author of this article, John Dovey, owns his own publishing company and is also an officer in the SA Army reserves. Currently a Lt at 19 Field Engineer Regt, he was previously an officer with the Durban Light Infantry, an NCO and later officer with the Cape Town Highlanders, and an NCO with the Natal Carbineers.

    John Dovey | Who's Who SA
  2. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

    It would be quite funny in Zim decided to invade...I'm not sure they wouldn't walk over the "New" SANDF.
  3. Don't know much about the Zim army but find it hard to believe they could be much better. I suspect most of their training is in beating the shit out of unarmed MDC supporters. Anyhow I think their concerns are purely internal.

    This is interesting though:

    the Namibian: Zimbabwe army hungry

    Cash for Zimbabwe army queried - Africa | IOL News |

    And this especially:
  4. Think he moved around a bit for work- used to be at Stellenbosch varsity amongst other things. What does he have wrong about Oshivello?

    Spoke to a mate of mine who is in a reserve gunner unit and he agrees with a lot of what it is in the article though he doesn't think things are quite as bad (though still major problems).
  5. Bloody hell! If it's really true, that really is pathetic - not on part of the grunts but the higher ups who were supposed to have trained them.

  6. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

    Oshivello was the base camp at the Oshivello gate - which formed the southern border of the operational area - it was used as a training area for troops moving into the operational area for their 12-14 month tour and basically was there to evaluate COIN training and the usual vehicle, patrol and ambush drills as well as doing a LOT of live firing.

    It also allowed people to aclimatise to the heat and the lack of water. There is no way anyone was ever told that they had to "forget" what they had be taught - the man is talking complete crap on that point - the other thing was these guys had been trained for 12 months having gone through basics, 2nd phase, 3rd phase etc and had been together for a year. Hardly raw recruits.

    The other thing he fails to mention that the vast majority of the actual fighting during the border war was actually carried out by a handful of units - in most cases the SA Infantry Battalions using conscripts were used for routine patrolling while specialist units were used to do the actual fighting.

    These were the Para's or Parabats based on the British Army Para's (But with better gear..hehe) Koevoet or Crowbar which operated in Namibia by the police using turned ex Swapo members - in armoured Caspirs, 32 Bttn using regular white officers and Nco's and mercenary black Angolan troops - these guys did the bulk of the fighting and won the most medals for valour in the war and then the big stick - my old unit - 61 Mech which was basically a Mechanised Arty Heavy Regiment with Armour to do over the border operations up to about 300 km into Angola.

    SANDF is a joke and some of the historical Regiments like Cape Town Highlanders and the Natal carbineers with histories going back to WW1 are the last of the the old SADF who marched 3,000 km into Angola.
  7. But in most cases hadn't deployed before which I think is the point he was trying to make. Agree with you about the "forget" part.

    All true but as you of course know the Parabats and 61 Mech both included plenty of national servicemen. Some of 32's white element were also NSM. And other units were used for cross-border ops at various times including Citizen Force ones. "Routine patrols" did of course sometimes result in contacts.
  8. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    Offrs & NCOs only though, & even that tailed off.
  9. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

  10. More insight:

    Dr Jan du Plessis on the genuine story behind the arms debacle.

    The arms debacle has remained in the news since the very beginning when the first announcement of the arms purchase was made, especially since irregularities were suspected. As time progressed the spectre of massive corruption and fraud - and the enrichment of specific individuals - has also been exposed by the media and various reports.

    Judging the present mood of various groups in society and the massive resistance against the e-toll road system, the climate is ripe for renewed action against the arms debacle. This time it will not only go back to court, but, quite possibly, beyond the court to the streets!

    The fundamental issue

    Regarding the arms deal, the current public debate has, to a very large extent, been focussed on the arms purchase itself (the number of aircraft, submarines, ships, etc.) and the cost involved. The more fundamental question that positions the whole debate in the right context has never been asked: where is the enemy and what is the nature of the enemy? In defence terms, it is a proper assessment of the enemy that provides the context for the construction and outlay of own armed capabilities. This may seem a common observation, yet it is rarely applied!

    Many a government first buys the military hardware and only afterwards looks for an enemy.

    The need for a defence capability is directly related to a state's need to uphold its own national sovereignty. The sovereignty of a state reflects its autonomy in decision-making and action; it is an expression of its independence and legitimises its political power. Within this context, a military capability is, therefore, a state's first line of defence of its sovereignty.

    Since 1998 the cost of the arms package has accrued from R30 billion to R47,2 billion according to the minister. Some sources claim that the final account could be closer to R70 billion.

    The arms component of a defence force is, however, only part of a wider defence system that also includes a certain level of skills and expertise - manpower. The latter is manifested in the command system and the quality of troops. The arms component is therefore not an entity in itself; in functional terms it is an extension of the interaction between command and troops. [A general decides and the troops carry out the order using the available equipment.]

    The state of capabilities

    It was pointed out in a concept defence overview issued in April 2012 that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) cannot protect the country any more. The defence force has degenerated to such an extent that, even with immediate government intervention, it may take up to 10 years to elevate the defence capability to a "restricted" level of operation.

    In its present form the SANDF cannot protect the borders, its monitoring of the air space is severely restricted and information about the maritime situation along the coastline is basically non-existent. The country has a coastline of 3 600 km and nearly a 5 000 km long land border. As far back as 2008 it was reported, "South Africa's borders are a shambles." (iol. March 2008)

    The SANDF does not have the expertise and skills to maintain and keep the new equipment operational. One of the new subs has been non-operational in the dock since 2007 and is expected to remain there until 2013. The navy has only enough trained personnel to keep two submarines at sea.

    The one component which has consistently deteriorated in the SANDF is the quality of troops. "Military specialists have said (in 2006) - the latest battle readiness statistics of the defence force and specifically the army, which indicated that only 5% of some battle units would be deployable as a result of poor health - is catastrophic."

    "There can't be another defence force in the world with so many sick or old soldiers ..." The defence force is developing into a huge welfare problem and cannot reach its primary aims.

    The defence force can simply not be regarded as a fighting force in this condition." (news24. January 2006)

    The reference to "sick soldiers" is usually the term used for HIV infected soldiers.

    Early in 2011 the Army Director Strategy told the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans "that no humane exit mechanism was available to exit unfit, sick and aged troops, which left the military in a position where it has troops, but cannot deploy them." ( November 2011)

    This all comes at a budget allocation of R34 billion for defence by parliament.

    Know your enemy

    According to the concept defence overview, completed in April 2012, sea-piracy, terrorism and the mass migration of illegal immigrants into the country present some of the most important threats to South Africa.

    While parliament was focussed on fighter aircraft, submarines and battle tanks, something else was happening in the region.

    SACU revenue down

    "The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) - the world's oldest, comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland - applies a common set of tariffs and disproportionately distributes the revenue to member states, providing a lifeline that ensures the economic survival of Swaziland and Lesotho."

    The South African Institute of International Affairs stated that according to "rough estimates," "Swaziland relied on customs revenue for 75 percent of its budget. Lesotho derived 65 percent of government spending from SACU, while in Botswana and Namibia the distributions accounted for about 30 percent of government revenue. SACU's complex framework ensures that Lesotho and Swaziland, and to a lesser extent Namibia and Botswana, share disproportionately in the union's proceeds."

    "Most of the customs revenue is produced by South Africa, the continent's largest economy, and about 90 percent of the SACU region's GDP is generated by South Africa." (Irin. Mbabane, 18 August 2010, "However, the global economic crisis saw SACU revenue drop by about 70 percent in 2010 and further drops are expected over the next few years."

    Destruction of human capital

    In the period after 2008 when the economic crisis set into the region, a report by the General-Secretary of the United Nations in June 2008 linked the future of the region to a new set of features, with HIV/AIDS among the most important.

    "There is, however, not one, single HIV epidemic in Africa. Across the continent HIV shows a great geographical variance. Countries in southern Africa form the epicentre of the global pandemic."

    "South Africa counts more than one thousand new infections a day, the highest in the world, while in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe at least one in five adults carries HIV."

    "The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a long wave event that unfolds over many decades ... HIV infection develops into illness and death in about ten or eleven years. The virus is hitting the most productive sectors of African economies - prime-aged adults - robbing already besieged economies of scarce skills, children of their parents and the continent of a generation."

    "... the time delay between infection, illness and eventually death means that the worst of the pandemic's impact has yet to unfold." (Report of the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa. An initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. June 2008).

    By 2012 the "worst of the pandemic's impact" has already been slowly unfolding in the region.

    In Swaziland the twin epidemics of AIDS and tuberculosis "has contributed substantially to a halving of life expectancy within two decades - from 60 years in the 1990s to 31 in 2007." (Doctors Without Borders (DWB). Timeslive. December 2010).

    Doctors Without Borders (DWB) estimated "that 80 to 90 percent of Lesotho's TB patients are co-infected with HIV. Medical experts are concerned the situation in this mountainous kingdom in southern Africa foreshadows what could be the world's next major health crisis."

    "Lesotho has the world's third-highest prevalence of HIV and its fourth-highest TB prevalence. Poverty and violence complicate treatment, and life expectancy is just 36 years." (From U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. March 29, 2010.)

    The decline in life expectancy has been a general feature of all the countries in the region. Zimbabwe is already close to 30 years and South Africa is moving to 40 years average.

    Who is the enemy?

    The SA defence force is perceived as the primary instrument in the hands of Government to protect the country's borders.

    It is already apparent that the defence force will not be able to execute the task. South Africa has, for practical purposes, open borders. But how will that affect the enemy?

    The "enemy" is usually portrayed as the "illegal immigrant" who finds himself in South Africa without a legal passport. The quick answer to this is always better border control; more troops will solve the problem. Unfortunately, the answer to this problem is much more complicated. The "illegal immigrant" in South Africa is someone who has encountered enormous problems in his own country.

    Food still remains an enormous problem. Countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland have been subjected to intense and sporadic droughts and the tribal controlled land system has severely endangered food security. Currently the whole of southern Zimbabwe is again experiencing severe drought with expected food shortages.

    There are very few job opportunities in the region. The contributing role of South African mines in the region with contract workers has lost its stabilising effect. Loss of economic income from the SACU union has caused misery.

    People are sick. There are not enough clinics and very often they run out of medicine. Most people in the rural areas stay so far from the clinic that they have to walk for hours to get treatment. As a result of HIV-infection, many are too weak to walk long distances. Due to a lack of income, farming appliances such as picks and forks are sold to buy medicine. It becomes a vicious circle of human collapse.

    The ordinary "illegal immigrant" is very often a person who is still strong enough to cross the border. His driving force and commitment are not to invade South Africa. He is dirt poor, he is hungry, he is sick with no place to go except South Africa.

    The new enemy - an avalanche of human misery. What is really threatening South Africa's borders is a mounting avalanche of human misery. A defence force cannot solve this problem, even more so when the defence force itself is weakened to the point of collapse.

    Searching for an enemy

    The Gripen fighters can be applied in the annual ceremonial by-pass on Freedom Day, but apart from this, the most serious air attack against South Africa may only come from a swarm of angry locusts from the Kalahari Desert. When the average life expectancy of the population comes down, it implies that people will not have the human capital - expertise and skills - to deploy a tank or carry a gun!

    Ardently seeking a credible enemy, some politicians have redirected the Gripens and submarines as new spearhead against sea piracy. Again, this is not so simple. How a land based fighter aircraft from South Africa is expected to attack a pirate ship in the Mozambique Channel remains to be seen - especially when the pirate ships are employing confiscated fishing vessels in order to blend in with the large number of other fishing vessels. It has already been said that submarines have not been particularly successful off the Somali coastline - they are too slow in comparison with the fast pirate vessels.

    Sovereignty in new context

    The sovereignty of a country's borders is not only threatened by an armed invasion, although this may be the traditional perception. This sovereignty can be equally threatened by every HIV-infected person crossing the border, and every foot-and-mouth disease infected buffalo crossing the Limpopo River.

    South Africa has prepared for a military threat that does not really exist. The genuine threat and impact of human and animal diseases have been largely ignored and mismanaged.

    The present discussion of the role of the defence force, and shopping list of armaments, really create the impression that it was designed within the context of Cold War thinking on military preparedness - which ended in 1990. Apart from the US intervention in the Middle East, the whole idea of war between countries has been replaced by a new reality of conflict inside a country. The situation in Libya and Syria proved beyond any doubt that no present day government can apply fighter aircraft and tanks against its own population any longer. World opinion, and the UN, just does not tolerate it.

    The real threat to South Africa in the region can be contracted in the following:

    Income from the SACU has been decreasing and will continue to do so for a long time;

    The average life expectancy of the population is on the decline and is expected to continue doing so for an even longer time. A demographic turn-around may take generations.

    This is accompanied by a continuing increase in arms spending, with no functional defence force in place.

    The country will have to rethink its strategic (long-term) position in the region. The current approach reflects Cold War thinking.

    A fundamental rethinking will be almost impossible, given the current political leadership of the SANDF.

    This is an edited extract from the Intersearch Management Briefing for May 2012
  11. It is extraordinary - yet in hindsight predictable - that the SADF as was has been run into the ground to this extent. I can understand the political reasoning behind grafting the former 'liberation armies' onto the structure of the SANDF, but I would suggest that organizationally it has not worked. I think it fair to assume that there is still a residual suspicion of the military among the ANC which has translated into either an active role in subverting the SANDF or institutional indifference to its decline. Of course, with any South African worth his salt going the private sector route it's no wonder the manpower issue is so critical.

    Wasn't it part of the pre-1994 deal that South Africa's borders were opened?
  12. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    Yes, but then everyone else started closing theirs.
  13. Indeed. Don't the ANC get irony or have the comrades declared that a 'colonialist mentality'?
  14. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    With all their cavorting one could be forgiven for assuming the ANC had invented irony, they just don't comprehend it in the slightest.
  15. It is not as bad as all that, at the AAD in Cape Town last year the bloke commanding the Mortar Platoon was only a Lt. Col.

    Each of the 4 Griffin were flown by a Lt. Col, one white, one black, one coloured and one white female.

    But our drinks in the Commandants arena were still served in the good old fashioned way.

    If you like I could post a few photos of Oryx, Rooivalk and such like, to remind you of the good old days.