Menu Close

Ramaphosa’s 2.0 Plan: Privatize Weak SA Army and Host US Army Base?

a us army base sign

Amidst funding and operational crises in South Africa’s military and with the privatization of state assets underway, a pressing question emerges: Will the pro-privatization Ramaphosa regime privatize the SA Army and host a US Army base?

SA Army in Tatters

As South Africa’s Defence Minister, Thandi Modise, admits that the country’s defense force is becoming increasingly unsustainable, concerns have been raised over the nation’s ability to defend itself in the face of potential threats. With severe budget cuts leading to a weakened South African National Defence Force (SANDF), experts warn that the country may be left defenseless if a military superpower were to launch an attack.

Responding to a parliamentary question in parliament, Modise emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to revive the SANDF. This approach should encompass various aspects such as leadership, funding, training, and strategic planning. However, she acknowledged that the declining defence baseline allocation has made the SANDF progressively more unsustainable. The failure to secure the projected steady-stream improvement in defence allocation, as agreed upon by the Cabinet in the 2015 defence review, has further exacerbated the situation.

sa army personnel in target practice

READ MORE: China’s Li Shangfu Ultimatum to the US: 1. Wine or 2. Guns?

Defence expert Helmoed Heitman has raised concerns about the state of South Africa’s defence systems, stating that they are virtually nonexistent. Heitman pointed out that the SANDF lacks the capability to effectively patrol the country’s waters, prevent smuggling, or maintain its equipment. With limited manpower, the army’s ability to respond to threats in multiple regions and domestically is severely hampered. Additionally, the lack of funding has resulted in non-functional equipment and an insufficient ability to counterattack drones or engage in anti-aircraft operations.

The budgetary constraints have further exacerbated the situation, with the defence department facing a significant shortfall of R3 billion for the 2022-23 financial year. Although the initial allocation was R49.1 billion, the unaudited actual expenditure stood at R54.6 billion, exceeding the budget by R3 billion. This deficit poses a serious challenge to the already constrained SANDF.

2024 Deadline Has been Set: Thandi Modise

In light of these issues, Minister Modise has set a deadline of 31 March 2024 for a review and analysis of the South African Defence Review 2015. The goal is to devise a realistic and sustainable defence strategy, taking into account the country’s fiscal limitations while fulfilling the constitutional mandate of defence and safeguarding national interests.

To address the challenges, Modise’s department has outlined five military priorities, which include promoting nation-building, safeguarding the country and building internal stability, securing regional development, enhancing cyber resilience, and strengthening the hard power capability of the SANDF. However, given the existing resource constraints and financial limitations, implementing these priorities effectively remains a significant challenge.

thandi modise making a speech on a podium.

The SANDF’s deployments to various areas, both domestically and internationally, have further stretched its already limited resources. Recent deployments to protect Eskom power stations and assist in various internal security operations have added to the strain.

Privatization of the SANDF

In light of the critical situation facing the SANDF, some experts are raising the question of whether South Africa should consider outsourcing some of its military duties or even allowing the hosting of a US military base. However, any such decision would have complex political and strategic implications and would require careful consideration by the South African government.

As Modise plans to engage with various stakeholders and parliamentary committees to discuss the future military policy, the nation is left to ponder the pressing question: Will South Africa take bold steps to address its defence challenges and secure its sovereignty, or will it explore unconventional measures to ensure its security in a rapidly changing global landscape?

The once-proud South African military, known for its capabilities and strength, now faces the ignominy of being defenseless and dependent on others for protection. The country’s leaders must be held accountable for this catastrophic decline.

Challenges Amidst Growing U.S. Military Presence

While South Africa grapples with its military challenges, the U.S. military has also significantly increased its presence in Africa, establishing numerous outposts and access points across the continent. These locations are strategically positioned for quick access and rapid deployment to respond to various crises. The U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) New Normal concept allows for quick access 400 miles inland from these sites, extending the military’s reach across West and Central Africa. While the U.S. military’s presence is mainly aimed at counterterrorism efforts and supporting allies, it raises questions about the potential impact on Africa’s security landscape and stability.

a warning sign on a fence outside a us army base.

The U.S. Military’s African Outposts: A Model the ANC Government Will Consider?

The United States’ military presence in Africa has been expanding steadily over the years, with a network of more than 60 outposts and access points spread across the continent. These outposts, including cooperative security locations (CSLs) and forward operating locations (FOLs), enable rapid response and the ability to concentrate forces quickly when necessary.

The U.S. military’s “New Normal” strategy allows for a light footprint in host countries, relying on agreements to use existing facilities and services from private contractors. This provides the U.S. with access to strategic locations and specialized support without the need for large-scale permanent military bases.

READ MORE: 1,500 SANDF personnel are expected to be laid off

South Africa’s Sovereignty and Hosting Foreign Military Bases

The idea of hosting a U.S. military base on South African soil is a complex and highly contentious issue. While such an arrangement might offer strategic advantages, it also raises concerns about national sovereignty and the potential for compromising the country’s security and foreign policy decisions.

On the one hand, hosting a U.S. military base could strengthen South Africa’s defense capabilities by providing access to advanced military technology and intelligence sharing. The presence of U.S. troops could also serve as a deterrent against potential security threats and bolster regional stability.

a sign that says privatized.

On the other hand, allowing a foreign military presence within the country may be perceived as a loss of sovereignty and raise questions about the South African government’s ability to make independent decisions on critical security matters. Hosting a U.S. military base could also attract criticism from regional neighbors and potentially escalate tensions with countries critical of U.S. foreign policy.

The Privatization of The Defense Force is Not a New Thing

According to the South African Defence Related Industries White Paper, published in 1996, the Republic of South Africa intended to reorganize its defense-related industries and may even privatize some of them. When Nelson Mandela was still in power and Thabo Mbeki was his deputy, at that time the government had investigated the possibility of privatization using the GEAR framework. The facilities of Denel, Armscor, the South African Defence Force (SANDF), and government research institutions were mentioned as the primary focus.

The paper stated that the purpose of the restructuring is to bring about economic benefits and bring the organization into alignment with national policies. The government would rather see Denel broken up and sold in clusters with less than one hundred percent ownership. Under the current administration of Ramaphosa South Africa has witnessed an surge and rush to privatize public assets. It is highly possible and practical for one to conclude that Cyril is just finishing off what Mandela and Mbeki had started initially back at the dawn of SA’s democracy.

In the paper government says that it will employ a number of different strategies, including partnerships both domestic and international. It is of the utmost importance to keep essential capabilities, and ownership by foreign entities will be subject to regulation. JSE companies such as Reunert and Altron were mentioned in the paper as possible buyers of defense industry companies. It is not clear if they are the ones who’ve been earmarked for the various defense related assets. Perhaps the privatization of the SA Army is not a long way off after all.

Related Posts