IF THE arms procurement process were declared illegal and the equipment sent back‚ the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would be left toothless and unable to protect the economic zones and borders of the country‚ chief of naval staff R-Adm Robert William Higgs told the arms procurement commission on Thursday (22/08/2013).
Delivering his concluding remarks following two days of his testimony‚ R-Adm Higgs said that even if the money were returned‚ the political leaders of the country would still face the challenge of finding military tools with the same capabilities for the South African Navy and the South African Air Force to do their jobs of protecting the country’s borders and economic zones.
South Africa depends on the sea‚ with more than 55% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) directly and indirectly based on the use of the sea.
More than 90% of its trade‚ in terms of imports and exports by tonnage‚ and more than 80% by value is moved through South African harbours.
R-Adm Higgs said the money would probably no longer be enough to even buy half of what South Africa has bought in the past 12 years due to inflation and other reasons.
Therefore‚ it should be understood that the country did itself a great favour to spend the resources to rejuvenate the military equipment at the time it did because "it is not cheap to keep and maintain a navy and an air force”.
He said there was no African country with such modern frigates and submarines warships. Considering the area of the sea floor to be patrolled‚ at three times the size of the country‚ South Africa could do with even more equipment than it had. However‚ the SANDF was aware of other compelling socioeconomic needs and understood that "it has to do the best it can with what it has”.
"These tools have made sure that South Africa is not a paper tiger‚ and that it can protect its exclusive economic zones in the oceans around its shores. But the commission should serve to help use better mechanisms in the future when procurement is required to keep things as transparent as humanly possible to help dispose of inherent suspicions about arms procurement projects‚” he said.
"The commission should help the country clear the toxins of allegations of corruption that have bedevilled the procurement process‚ to help the force units do their duties with pride. © BDlive 2013