The third of the hi-tech German submarines, the Queen Modjadji, was delivered last week. The occasion again prompted news reports that one crew sailed all three home and that there were only sufficient submariners for one vessel.
Briefing the media ahead of his budget vote debate yesterday, Lekota said he did not know where these reports originated from, but “they are entirely fallacious”. He asked rhetorically how all three vessels could be at sea simultaneously if there was only one crew. He insisted that all three were commissioned and operating.
Crew would continue to be trained for the submarines in the future, he said.
Later, introducing his budget vote in an extended public committee of the National Assembly, Lekota said that the eagerly awaited review of the force design of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was complete and would go to cabinet soon.
The design would provide a core nucleus of capabilities that could be expanded and developed should the need arise.
“This implies the need to ensure that all the necessary building blocks such as doctrine, technology, and training capabilities are retained at an appropriate level to provide the backbone to future growth as and when required by government,” Lekota said.
The army’s mandate to defend and protect SA’s sovereignty and territorial integrity demanded versatility to counter a range of potential threats, and also the mobility to operate across the range of terrain that might be encountered.
SA’s contribution to global security also implied long-term involvement in peace missions.
After going to the cabinet, the design would go to the national legislature.
Lekota explained that the review had been made necessary because of the changing situation in the defence force. He said in 1994 with the birth of democracy there had been a wholly defensive posture for the SANDF along with its constitutionally defined primary mandate. But since then the involvement of the defence force in peacekeeping operations elsewhere on the continent had meant that the force design decided in 1998 had to be revisited.
“Such capabilities may differ from what is required to support operations in defence of SA or in support of the people of SA.
“However the SANDF should only be employed within the means of that government can afford.
“Compliance with this principle is only possible if selective engagement in deployment is achieved through a process of consultation between the defence minister, cabinet and the president,” Lekota said.
He said the defence of the country from external military threats was a given as the SANDF’s primary function.