Treasury says it ensured soldiers don’t starve with additional R700 million allocation

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was allocated an additional R700 million following its deployment in July to counter the civil unrest which stemmed from #FreeJacobZuma protests sparked by the incarceration of the former president.

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This was revealed by the Director-general at national Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, on Tuesday during the department’s presentation to Parliament’s select committee on finance on the economic impact of the recent unrest.

Mogajane was responding to comments made by the committee’s chair, Yunus Carrim, that reports that members of the SANDF are complaining of hunger while deployed was a concern, particularly for a developing state.

The reports surfaced recently when Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema shared on Twitter a screenshot of a text message purportedly from an SANDF member addressing him and asking for his assistance because SANDF members were starving.

The SANDF has since issued a statement acknowledging “that there were challenges regarding ration packs and payment of meal allowances”.

“These challenges received the necessary attention. As a measure to address developing challenges, there are processes in place to prioritise and address challenges as and when they prevail.

“This is an ongoing process for the duration of the operation. It is outright disingenuous to suggest or insinuate that soldiers are starving and are considering withdrawing from the operation,” the SANDF statement reads.

Mogajane said the additional allocation by Treasury to the SANDF was meant to ensure that members of the military do not go hungry.

Over and above the annual allocation outlined in February’s budget speech, the South African Police Service (SAPS) were allocated an additional R300 million “to address budget pressures”, Mogajane said.

Mogajane added that there had been “no push back” from both the SANDF and the SAPS on the additional funds allocated for the operations to deal with the unrest.

Mogajane further said Treasury engages on a monthly basis with the SANDF and the SAPS and that during these engagements budget issues will be addressed and an assessment will be made on whether additional allocations will need to be set aside in the medium-term budget.

Meanwhile, in its presentation, Treasury said the recent unrest is expected to weigh on the country’s GDP, with the South African Property Owners Association(SAPOA) estimating that the impact on GDP stands at R50 billion.

With over 200 shopping malls targeted and 1787 retailers impacted or damaged during the unrest, SAPOA suggested that rebuilding – which it said could take two years for malls – is likely to contribute positively to GDP, “but the induced uncertainty is anticipated to remain in the near-term”.

In its presentation, Treasury also said that the recent unrest will likely negatively impact GDP growth beyond 2021.

“The economic damage from the unrest could shave between 0.7 and 0.9 of a percentage point from GDP growth in 2021.”

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