A matter of survival? An exploratory study of cooperation and benefits for the South African maritime defence industry within the BRICS context

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The South African defence industry (SADI) was built up and became a strong industry during the 1970s and 1980s, supplying the South African Defence Force with equipment, weapons and logistic support. Between 1989 and 1994 the defence budget shrank by approximately 50%. Acquisition and procurement from the defence force was reduced by roughly 80% and the research and development (R&D) budget was reduced by 70%. As the defence force and the defence industry are closely linked, the budget cuts had a direct impact on the SADI. Many defence companies restructured, diversified into other industrial endeavours or closed down. Manpower also shrank from approximately 131 000 in the 1980s to 15 000 today. Currently the SADI is in dire straits to survive. A dying defence industry is counter-productive to the South African economy, its industries and the country as a whole. It also has a detrimental effect on the defence force’s capabilities. South Africa is a maritime nation with an island economy and is dependent on trade via maritime transport, with 95% of South Africa’s trade being by sea transport. Maritime security is important for South Africa to keep sea lanes safe for merchant travel; and maritime resources underdeveloped. The navy and certain air force elements as part of the broader South African National Defence Force (SANDF) are critical to ensure maritime security. The navy was always treated as the “step-child” of the SANDF purely because threats were always perceived as being landward and not from the sea. As such, the SADI was always more landward focused than maritime. Development and human security are priorities for South Africa. Being the most important priorities, it is unlikely that the defence budget will increase to levels needed to remedy the precarious situation of the defence force and the defence industry. The defence budget cannot ensure the survival and growth of the SADI but it provides seeding funding for R&D and much needed capabilities for the SANDF. Currently, the survival of the SADI is dependent on exports. It is also advantageous to the SADI to market and promote products that are in use in the SANDF, as it gives the products credibility on the international market. The defence review, approved by Parliament in 2015, is a good document which lays out the roles and functions of the SANDF, its needed force structure and force design; and the importance of a vibrant and strong defence industry. Without the budget to implement this, it will however remain a paper exercise. It is also clear that it is unlikely that defence will move up on the government’s list of priorities, which means no increase in funding, which leaves the question, what must the defence force be ready for? That determines what the design and structure must look like. One of the possibilities for survival of the SADI is cooperation with other countries. As part of the BRICS forum, this research explored the possibilities of cooperation with BRICS partners as an option. The research showed that cooperation is only one aspect. The survival of the SADI requires policy changes and implementation, diplomatic efforts, strategic decisions regarding the “ready for what?” of the defence force, focus on R&D funding, and embracing the underdeveloped blue economy for the betterment of South Africa and the regional/international village South Africa finds itself in.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geen Afrikaanse opsomming beskikbaar nie.
Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
Armaments Corporation of South Africa Ltd., ARMSCOR, Defense industries -- South Africa -- Foreign relations, Weapons industry -- South Africa, BRIC countries, UCTD