Leaked service availability figures for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) show that the country’s army is in no position to deploy troops to tackle civil unrest.

Data and information uncovered by Rapport point to several SANDF bases being in dire straits, unable to afford fuel for vehicles, and a fleet of aircraft in desperate need of repair.

According to the report, 75% of the air force is currently grounded due to a lack of spare parts and fuel, with service contracts expiring and not being renewed.

Insiders at the airbases reported having no more vehicles to “cannibalise” for spare parts citing a lack of budget.

The leaks come after an internal planning document was published in the media last week, announcing that 200 troops would be placed on standby amid increasing incidents of civil unrest.

The SANDF later stated that the document was not a deployment order and was meant for planning purposes only. The City Press noted that even if it were a deployment order, the army would not be able to send more than 200 troops anyway, as the department has already exceeded its budget by R3 billion.

The financial troubles at the SANDF have been making headlines for years, with the current and former minister of the department painting a grim picture of the army’s capacity to keep the country’s borders safe.

A recent report by the Sunday Times also revealed that South Africa’s army is not only underfunded and lacking critical skills and infrastructure, but its administration is also a complete mess – outlining wasteful spending and illegal activity that is not being dealt with or properly investigated.

The paper reported on a leaked audit report from the Auditor General of South Africa’s (AGSA), which showed leadership at the Department of Defence did not review the department’s compliance with supply chain management laws, nor did it take any of the recommended actions in the majority of investigations into the department’s failures.

This included hundreds of cases of alleged misconduct, fraud and infringements that have still not been completed; irregular expenditure of R6.1 billion that has not been investigated; and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R8.5 billion has not been investigated.

Defence and military veterans minister Thandi Modise presented her departmental budget vote in May 2022, where she described the situation within the department as dire – expressing alarm at the number of qualified audits the department was getting.

She warned, however, that continued budget cuts put the country at risk, especially if more violent protests broke out.

The decline in the performance of the South African economy placed significant pressure on government and households, she said, adding that it is becoming difficult to adequately meet all competing needs.

Modise said that these issues mean there is fertile ground for more instability in the country, adding that these issues could be further exacerbated by a lack of funding and resources for the SANDF.

Former defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned in 2021 that South Africa is at risk of losing its state-owned defence industrial base and the ability to repair, maintain and overhaul most of its defence systems.

Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCODMV) have previously highlighted issues plaguing the sector, including an ageing air force fleet and dilapidated infrastructure and equipment.

Read: South Africa’s army is a complete mess: report