Army chief: Cancel arms deal contracts and no country will take us seriously

There needs to be a distinction between “alleged wrongdoing” and the needs of the defence force, General Solly Shoke, head of the SA National Defence Force, has told the arms deal commission in Pretoria.

“If there was wrongdoing, that must be investigated, but that does not nullify the needs of the force. We can’t put the lives of our soldiers in danger because of said wrongdoing,” he said.

Shoke testified at the hearings of the commission today about the rationale and usage of the equipment bought through the deal.

He said that he did not want to contemplate what the consequences would have been had the equipment not been acquired.

“The consequences would be too drastic for me to contemplate. The defence force would not be able to defend the country internally and externally,” he said.

Shoke said the purchase of the equipment was necessary to assist in protecting the shores, the borders and playing a part in joint exercises from the African Union, Southern African Development Community and the United Nations.

He added that, aside from the country’s international obligations, the equipment was being used effectively – particularly during major events like the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“We also use equipment during training and joint exercises, but full utilisation of this equipment will be when there is war,” said Shoke.

He added that the cancellation of the contracts would be disastrous for the country as the procurement process would take a long time, while the defence force was vulnerable to threats.

“We’d have to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch and I doubt if any other country would take us seriously again. How will they know that we won’t cancel the contracts again?” he said.

The hearings will resume on September 30.

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