WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ARMS DEAL CORRUPTION? WHO WAS INVOLVED WITH THE ARMS DEALS?
Chief of the South African Navy (SAN), Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane, has told Parliament that if the Navy does not get a budget that it’s supposed to get, then it will be unable to deliver on its mandate. Presenting to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee (JSCD) on Defence on Navy sea hours and capacity constraints to effectively utilise naval assets last Thursday, the country’s senior Sailor delivered a sober message to the Parliamentarians: if the status quo of low budget allocation remains, the Navy will be defeated.
The key performance indicator of the Navy is the number of sea hours per year. The achievement of planned targets for the number of hours at sea is, Hlongwane explained, dependent on the SAN’s budget allocation, with specific reference to the Operating Budget allocation.
Due to various capacity constraints, primarily resulting from the insufficient budget allocation, the Navy is unable to achieve the planned sea hours target due to the unavailability of naval vessels.
As explained by Hlongwane, the SAN requires a minimum of 12 000 hours (500 days) at sea per year to train sufficient personnel to keep vessels in the operating cycle and operational. The Navy, however, is only resourced for 6 000 hours at sea, planned as follows: 1 680 hours (28%) for Force Preparation and 4 320 hours (72%) for Force Employment.
Hlongwane said that these 6 000 hours are not sufficient to meet both Force Preparation and Force Employment requirements, as the Joint Operations Division annually requires 7 800 hours at sea for Force Employment alone, consisting of 2 544 hours for maritime border safeguarding (Operation Corona) and 5 256 hours for maritime security (anti-piracy Operation Copper).
The average Number of Sea Hours for the three years 2016/17 to 2018/19 was 7 294 hours, or 60.7% of the 12 000 hour annual target.
Due to sustained underfunding and resulting backlogs in vessel refits and maintenance and repair, the Navy had to adjust the planned number of hours at sea per year target from 12 000 hours to just 10 000 hours with effect from the 2019/20 financial year. As a comparison, the target for the 2013/14 financial year was 22 000 hours, with only 11 081 hours achieved.
“Should sea hours be reduced below 10 000 per year, the SA Navy will decline rapidly and be unable to meet the annual 7 800 hours Force Employment requirement,” Hlongwane warned. “Any further reduction in sea hours will impact severely on individual and team training at sea, maintaining safety at sea and the safe navigation of all SA Navy vessels.”
The full requirement to run the SAN is R6.818 billion, but it only received R3.609 billion (52.9% of what is required), of which R2.495 billion (69.1%) is allocated to Human Resources. This leaves just R1.1 billion available for the Operating budget.
The reduction in planned and achievable sea hours results in limited practical sea training, with most Navy training establishments requiring urgent (unfunded) refurbishment. Upgrade and repairs of Operational Training Simulators are also not funded.
A progressive decline in the availability of most capabilities is expected after the 2020/21 financial year, due to increasing obsolescence, insufficient refit and maintenance repair funding and skills shortages and human resource budget constraints, leading to fewer platforms available from 2020/21 to accumulate sea hours.
Should mid-life refits not be able to be funded and executed, the Navy will over the medium term lose its frigate capability, then its submarine capability, leaving its patrol capability highly restricted.
The delivery of the Project Biro Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessels and Project Hotel Hydrographic Survey Vessel from 2021/22 onwards will not lead to improved sea hours, due to them only replacing obsolete vessels, with both projects underfunded.
“If we don’t get a budget that we are supposed to get, we are unable to do what we are supposed to do,” Hlongwane said at the end of his presentation. “We are unable to (perform) our mandate as the country has instructed us to do so.”
The SAS Queen Modjadji, named after South Africa’s rain queen who lived in Limpopo, struck the ocean floor while conducting training exercises between Port Elizabeth and Durban last week. The Sunday Times photographed the German-built submarine undergoing repairs in Simon’s Town this week. The SA Navy acknowledged she had been damaged during a “training exercise”.
This means that all three submarines – meant to police the oceans – are presently undergoing repairs and maintenance.
The SAS Manthatisi, the first of the country’s submarines acquired in the multibillion-rand arms deal, has been in the dry dock since 2007 after a series of mishaps, including crashing into a quay and damaging her steering mechanism.
Then a power cable was incorrectly plugged into her shore power-supply system, causing damage. The vessel’s propulsion batteries, which cost R35-million, are being replaced.
The SAS Charlotte Maxeke is also busy with “routine maintenance”, according to navy chief director maritime strategy Rear Admiral Bernhard Teuteberg.
Now a full navy board of inquiry has been appointed to investigate what happened to the Queen Modjadji.
The submarine was the only one of the country’s three hi-tech submarines operational at sea when she was damaged.
Teuteberg said: “We did a proper technical investigation and now we have convened a board of inquiry to look at all the procedures to see whether there is something we can learn from this.
“As soon as that is completed, we will adapt our procedures of conducting this specific set of safety drills.”
He downplayed the latest incident, and insisted the submarine could be back in the water “within days”.
However, he said repair work to the vessel’s nose would be completed later in the month.
The accident is the latest in a string of submarine incidents over the past two years and comes three months after the Queen Modjadji welcomed a new commander, Commander Handsome Thamsanqa Matsane.
The fleet of submarines cost over R6-billion – rising to R8-billion in interest costs – and cost tens of millions every year to maintain and operate.
This week, the Sunday Times established that:
- The accident took place during a safety drill involving the Queen Modjadji’s hydraulic system;
- The vessel’s outer hull, about 7.8mm thick, suffered a serious dent on impact with the seabed;
- She surfaced after impact and continued sailing to Durban, where she was checked by a team of divers; and
- Afterwards, the submarine returned to Cape Town and was taken out of the water and inspected by senior officials.
Teuteberg said he flew to Simon’s Town naval base to inspect the damaged submarine.
“I personally went down from Pretoria to Simon’s Town to go and have a look at the submarine and speak to the crew.
“When I initially heard about [the accident], I thought, ‘Hell, this must have been a bump’ … I spoke to the captain and the officers. Some of them said they didn’t even notice the bump.”
The vessel’s black boxes – which keep a record of her movements and functioning of her equipment – would help determine the cause of the incident, he said.
However, defence experts yesterday said the accident raised serious concerns.
Parliament defence portfolio committee member David Maynier said: “A full board of inquiry will have to be convened to determine what went wrong and recommend ways to prevent a similar incident in the future. There can be absolutely no compromise when it comes to submarine safety.”
South Africa purchased four frigates, three submarines, helicopters, jet training aircraft and Gripen fighter jets in a Strategic Defence Procurement Process that, in 1999, came with an estimated price tag of R30-billion. That figure has since ballooned to an estimated R70-billion, taking financing costs into account.
President Jacob Zuma established a commission of inquiry into the arms deal in September last year to probe allegations of fraud, corruption and impropriety.
Arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne said the incident was further proof of the folly of the arms deal. “South Africa has not yet paid for these submarines. They are being financed by Commerzbank until 2016, these loans being underwritten by Hermes and German taxpayers,” he said.
Former ANC MP and author Andrew Feinstein, who has written extensively about the international arms trade, said the latest submarine incident raised familiar questions about the logic behind South Africa’s arm deal.
“This is another example of what happens in arms deals all the time, but it seems to be happening more than most in our deals. We were sold equipment that seems to be of dubious quality, we were sold it at inflated prices because of the bribes that were paid, and the performance of this equipment across the board has been, to put it politely, very poor,” said Feinstein.
He said submarine manufacturer Ferrostaal was under fire for corrupt dealings with Greece and Portugal, whose own arms deals contributed to the current European fiscal crisis: “This [South Africa’s submarine deal] is a déjà-vu situation with Portugal and Greece.
“South Africans need to ask ourselves, especially with the arms deal commission of inquiry: was this an appropriate use of our money, given this latest disaster with the submarines?
“Do South Africans who don’t have enough to eat today, nor adequate shelter, healthcare or education, believe that this was an appropriate way to spend R70-billion?”
Hawks boss Anwar Dramat last year rejected calls to probe Ferrostaal, a member of the German submarine consortium that supplied the three submarines to South Africa. The company was implicated in making questionable payments to South African “consultants” involved in the arms deal.
Teuteberg said in 2007 that it would cost the navy over R34-million a year to operate its fleet of submarines – R7.8-million each.
29 August 2008 –
The government’s exorbitant multibillion-rand arms deal has crippled the South African Navy.
And, according to one of the country’s leading arms deals experts, the navy does not even have the money “to fully or properly operate or support” the costly frigates or submarines that has devastated its budget.
The Mercury revealed on Thursday that the navy wants to spend billions more of taxpayers’ money on patrol ships, primarily because the hugely expensive corvettes they bought to monitor the country’s seas are not ready or up for the job.
According to a June 2008 Defence Force Legal Services staff paper for Chief of the Navy Vice-Adm Johannes Mudimu, the state’s controversial purchases – “which absorb most of the South African Navy’s financial resources” – have left the navy incapable of:
- Tracking the vessels that travel around the South African coast;
- Conducting patrols aimed at protecting and defending “the maritime sovereignty of the republic”;
- Fulfilling its “collateral responsibilities” of “maritime safety, pollution response, search-and-rescue, protection of maritime resources and interdiction of maritime offenders”; and
- Conducting patrols of South Africa’s resource and fossil fuel-rich economic exclusion zone.Trained advocate Captain DK Gillespie, whose mandated report the Defence Force has attempted to dismiss as an “academic study” created by a “student”, further states: “With the transformation of the South African National Defence Force, severe budget cuts (and) downsizing, the SA Navy has become a shadow of its original force structure with a number of ‘gaps’ apparent in its capacity.”
Richard Young, the overlooked arms deal bidder who was awarded a R15-million settlement from the government after he sued it for damages, yesterday said it was “fact” that the navy was unable to afford operating the frigates and submarines it had purchased.
Referring The Mercury to research that found one frigate cost €720 000 (about R8,2-million) a day to operate, he said the navy’s mooted purchase of eight to 12 new 85m multipurpose hull patrol boats “would make economic sense”.
“These vessels cost between R250-million and R300-million each, as opposed to the R4 billion cost of the frigates.
The reality is that, if the government had not forced the navy to buy the frigates and submarines, it would have been able to purchase the patrol boats. . . which get the work done.”
Young said the South African Navy had elected to purchase the Spanish Bazan 590B light frigate and an Italian coastal submarine, but had been overridden by the government’s desire to buy German MEKO 200AS light frigates and German Type 209 coastal submarines.
“At least regarding the frigates, the South African Navy would have saved about R1 billion in 1999 rands, which would have gone a long way in operational and support costs,” he said.
Young, who had seen Gillespie’s report, said it appeared that the work had started its life as a “joint staff course” document, but was “resurrected for a very specific reason”.
“It seems it was resurrected and edited very recently to justify the purchase (of the patrol vessels),” he said.
The Mercury has established that, at the time defence department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi claimed that Gillespie had written the report, in 2003, he was a senior staff officer of operational law support.