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South Africa cuts defence spending

Funding has been allocated to support the return to service of the South African Air Force's Gripen fleet. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

South Africa's defence budget for 2023–24 is slightly down from the previous year's adjusted allocation of ZAR51.6 billion (USD2.84 billion) to ZAR51.12 billion (USD2.8 billion), with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework plan seeing it increase to just over ZAR53 billion in 2026–27, according to data released by the government on 22 February.

A total of ZAR3.1 billion has been allocated over the three-year period for border security, about ZAR700 million of which is expected to go to vehicles and other equipment, including unmanned aircraft systems (UASs). An amount of ZAR850 million is slated to support the military's operations in Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community mission there, on the assumption that the deployment will continue beyond the current financial year. In addition, the air force will receive ZAR1 billion under the Special Defence Account this year, partly to address its airlift shortfall.

The Special Defence Account, which is used to fund long-term acquisition projects, is up from the previous year's final ZAR2.76 billion to ZAR3.07 billion but will decline to ZAR2.59 billion and ZAR2.42 billion over the next two years. This is in stark contrast to the ZAR6.2 billion of 2021–22 and ZAR4.3 billion in 2020–21, and reflects the declining ability to acquire new equipment and systems or even to undertake upgrades.

The air force will receive ZAR2.246 billion during the three years, mostly to address its airlift challenges; the navy ZAR1.766 billion, largely for the acquisition of two inshore patrol vessels and a new hydrographic survey vessel; the army will receive only ZAR745 million and Defence Intelligence ZAR926.8 million.

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