As intended, the front page image of the parade SANDF IFV Ratels published on February 22 as part of the commemoration of Armed Forces Day is impressive. Unfortunately, the image does not reflect the state of the SANDF.
For a start, those Ratels are about 35 years old and were used by the SADF during the Border war. That begs the question: what has happened to all the military hardware purchased under the Arms Deal of 20 years ago? According to DA MP Kobus Marais, who is a member of the Parliamentary Defence Force portfolio committee, most of that hardware is unserviceable.
At its recent meeting the portfolio committee was told that of the 200 aircraft the Air Force has, only 46 are operational. All 26 of the Gruppen aircraft bought in terms of the Arms deal are grounded. There is not a single Rooivalk helicopter in the country and the three that are serviceable are in the DRC. Only three of the Pilatus training aircraft are airworthy. None of the three of the submarines bought in terms of the Arms Deal is seaworthy.
The shocking reality is that a once respected and feared Defence Force has been reduced to a defence farce – at the cost of billions.
The only positive to draw from this disgraceful situation is that the country is safe from a military coup.