This week in 1994: Democracy 25

SANDF logo and SA flag
Reading Time: 2 minutes


We wrap the month of July with the focus on the impact of the declining budget of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

On 26 July 1994, the Department of Defence was allocated R10.5 billion, more than 8.7% of the national budget. This was a good number as funding was almost 3% of total government spending for that period.

It was, however, a dip from previous years. Prior to 1994, the apartheid government spent billions on the military. The South African Defence Force was larger than the SANDF  and was also involved in the Angolan Border War.

The cut in the army’s budget marked the re-positioning of the military to a defensive instrument of the state.

The move sparked an outcry, with even external military commentators slamming it. Out of frustration, the SANDF  released a document outlining how the budget cut has affected the military capability of the force.

Since then the situation has being getting worse, with the army’s budget declining by 5% to a mere 1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the past two decades.

Countries around the world spend around 2 and 2.5% of their national budget on the defence force.

South Africa Defence Force Union (Sandu) Spokesperson Pikkie Greef says the defence department won’t be able to implement all its goals with the funding it’s getting from government.

Greef says while he understands that the country’s priorities are different from those of other countries – government can’t have its cake and eat it.

He is calling for urgent action to prevent a possible disaster.

While some military commentators are advocating for the trimming of the force to solve the dilemma, Greef believes that would just be a futile exercise.

SANDF bosses, including Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, have also been decrying the army’s budget spiral.

Mapisa-Nqakula has warned of increasing terrorism threats and extremists groups, saying more resources are needed to support SANDF to patrol and protect the country.

The department has been allocated R50.510 billion in the 2019-20 financial year.

A far cry from the R80 billion it is said to need to fund its programmes.

Watch 2019 defence budget vote: