CRITICAL:  The review of the country’s defence policy found there were too few troops in the South African National Defence Force, and many were too old. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

IN THE absence of a direct and dire threat to the country‚ the South African National Defence Force is a stabilisation force and therefore an asset to the economy‚ says Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

She was speaking in Johannesburg on Thursday at the launch of the National Defence Industry Council (NDIC)‚ which will serve as a consultative body between the defence industry and the Department of Defence on matters of policy formulation and compliance‚ export support‚ armament acquisition and joint planning.

Ms Mapisa-Nqakula said the socioeconomic effect of security in Africa had recently been investigated by independent econometrists in a study for Armscor.

"Once the military provides sufficient security for investment to take place there is a substantial peace dividend in the form of economic growth. This can be observed in the recovery of economies such as that of Sierra Leone‚ Côte d’Ivoire‚ Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo subsequent to the deployment of peace missions‚" the minister said.

"The corollary to this is that growth and stability elsewhere are at risk if one is not able to provide sufficient security. In the tune of R73bn of the RSA GDP (gross domestic product) as well as approximately 480‚000 jobs within (SA) are linked to economic activity in Africa," she said.

"Treasury earns in excess of R16bn per year on economic activity in Africa. The bulk of the value is unlocked in the DRC (Congo). Our peace missions therefore add to both the African and SA economies."

Ms Mapisa-Nqakula said the newly established defence industry council provided the government with a platform to direct‚ support and preserve the country’s defence industry as a national asset, and ensure that the partnership between the government and industry worked towards the preservation of an industrial capability "that is dear to us while we secure our sovereignty now and in future".

"The council will also enable us to more effectively deal with unique government imperatives, like the beneficiation of the NSF Military Veterans, through deliberate, set-aside procurement programmes like uniforms, as well as act as a platform through which we can engage the industry to set up special programmes aimed at the broadening of our skills base and the training of our youth as technicians‚ welders and panel beaters to mention but a few areas‚" the minister said.

The government’s decision to establish the NDIC reinforced its commitment in general and that of the Department of Defence in particular‚ to work with the defence industry in ensuring the attainment of the following key objectives:

• To ensure that the defence force was equipped with the best and most reliable equipment that the country could afford within its limited means;

• That the defence industry served the country not only from a socioeconomic point of view but also in terms of the country’s regional and international obligations as well as its national interests; and

• That the defence industry was not only successful as preferred suppliers and partners to the South African security establishments but also as reliable and credible exporters of defence equipment to the country’s partners and like-minded nations to whom permits were granted by the government.

"It is only when the above objectives have been met that as an industry you will be sustainable and profitable and thus resilient, regardless of the prevailing global economic conditions‚" said Ms Mapisa-Nqakula.

TMG Digital