Another of her colleagues, Corporal Nkoana, that tiny little girl there, showed bravery that goes beyond the call of duty in Bangui. During the heat of the battle, she volunteered to go out and assist with casualties sustained in the field. Whilst returning to the base the convoy was ambushed by Seleka rebels. Without vehicles and maps to guide them to base, 16 members were cut off from their company and realised that their hiding place was surrounded by rebels. They were behind enemy lines.
Corporal Nkoana, a medic, took the lead and decided on the best way out of a potential ambush situation. [Applause.] For two long days and nights, they moved under her command and guidance, carrying casualties of war. She kept the commanders informed of their position and situation at all times. Her actions saved all 16 of our soldiers, including 2 who were shot. [Applause.]
She has earned the nickname of "human navigator" for her role in guiding her colleagues during the escape. Ms Gates and Corporal Nkoana represent all the finest qualities of the new SA National Defence Force; they are heroines and true patriots ... [Applause.] ... who displayed loyalty to their country and fellow servicemen and women, three of whom are also in this House with us today.
The challenges that we have debated in public and in this House regarding our defence and security environment have brought forth many lessons and pointed to key interventions that need to be made. In particular, these challenges were starkly exposed following our mission to Bangui, the accidents in our aviation environment and the recent unauthorised use of the Waterkloof Airforce Base for private purposes.
In the aftermath of these events, the department has had to conduct deep introspection and review, the result of which will have serious implications for the work and organisation of our armed forces, particularly during this financial year. The finalisation of the Defence Review has already taken into account some of the weaknesses in our design, tactical planning, legislation and operational requirements that led to these challenges.
The Chief of the SA National Defence Force and the Military Command Council have also conducted an assessment of some of these weaknesses and determined the interventions that need to be made in the immediate, short- term and long-term planning. The lessons drawn, in particular in relation to the CAR, are already assisting us in the planning, force preparation and deployment to current and future operations.
Following the report of the directors-general on the investigation of the use of the Waterkloof Air Force Base for private purposes, the SA National Defence Force is conducting a review aimed at strengthening weaknesses identified in command and control, policy and delegation, as well as the standard operating procedure governing the use of and access to all our facilities.
Although the public has and will continue to have access to various of our facilities, including military bases, this needs to be regulated in accordance with the required level of sensitivity and security. The Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the SA National Defence Force will continue to do their work in pursuance of constitutionally mandated obligations.
Given the current gaps that exist in relation to funding, structures, human resources and capability, the SA National Defence Force is developing a fully integrated approach to the defence of the Republic of South Africa, our international obligations and its ordered tasks. This process, informed and aligned to the current defence review process, involves a zero-based approach to the needs of the SA National Defence Force against its current resourcing gaps. South Africa's national interest is always central to the fulfilment of the defence mandate.
Our continent has enough resources that can be shared for common prosperity, security and human development. The biggest threat to the ability of the continent to harness this potential is instability, poor governance and war. The situation of war has made it possible for our resources to be plundered for the benefit of other economies outside the continent.
The continued plundering of these resources is a direct threat to our future food security and survival. It is for this reason that we will continue our engagements in support of peace and stability on the continent. South Africa has consistently adhered to its pledges to Monusco, the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the deployment of its various capabilities in support of the mission in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We have also pledged to contribute a battalion to the envisaged intervention force that is being established. As part of our support to the region's maritime security, we have also renewed our mandate for Operation Copper in the Mozambican Channel to deter piracy activities, and to ensure the security of our exclusive economic zone. These operations will continue in this financial year with an amount of R585 million allocated for the SADC Maritime Security Strategy.
The Defence Review has been completed and submitted for Cabinet's approval. Although I do not wish to pre-empt the final outcome of the Defence Review report after its consideration by Cabinet, I need to indicate that we are preparing to align our planning activities to accommodate the implementation of its recommendations. This may require that some reprioritisation and adjustment be made to both our plans and financial projections for this year.
We need more frequent reviews to respond to the pace of technological advances within the military sphere and ever-changing geopolitical environments going forward. I wish to thank members of the Defence Review Committee, who were ably led by its chairman, Roelf Meyer, for their sterling work. [Applause.]
An important part of ensuring the sustainability of the SA National Defence Force and its capabilities is the need for us to take care of the Defence Force's most important asset, our soldiers. Key in this effort is the need to ensure that the conditions of service of our soldiers are improved in recognition of the special nature of the service they provide. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that the remuneration structure of the members of the permanent Defence Force Service Commission has been finalised and submitted to Cabinet. Once approved, the appointment of permanent members can proceed on 15 June 2013. [Applause.]
I would like to thank the members of the interim commission, some of whom are Members of Parliament, for their service over the past four years. This interim commission was led by Bishop Mpumlwana. I thank you, Your Worship. [Applause.] Given the strategic impact of the Defence Force on national security, it has become important that an effective grievance procedure that enjoys the confidence of soldiers is developed and implemented.
In May 2012 the first Military Ombudsman was appointed to establish a mechanism to investigate and resolve complaints of members. I recently instructed the Military Ombudsman, in terms of the Act, to conduct an investigation into the allegations of abuse and assault of recruits at the Oudtshoorn Infantry School. I have since received the initial report and directed the Chief of the SA National Defence Force to implement its recommendations.
I want to emphasise that the pursuit of a well-balanced and disciplined force is absolutely essential for the success of the Defence Force. The military is expected to develop capable leaders with a high level of discipline and sense of duty. The Defence Force actively recruits young people through the Military Skills Development System and the University Reserve Training Programme. We seek to increase partnerships with tertiary institutions to train Defence Force members and to recruit talented students, especially in technical fields. Recently we have concluded a training contract for our members with the Russian Federation as part of our efforts to expand our international training partnership. This will cover some of the essential skills, particularly the training of our pilots.
After consultation with the Department of Public Works, the department has now established a Works Formation responsible for the execution of planned departmental maintenance projects. The SA National Defence Force has so far deployed its members in four provinces as part of its border security operations. The deployment along the border has contributed significantly to government's efforts to combat crime.
I am concerned, though, that despite expressed commitment to improving the landward defence capability, and despite funds being allocated in the past, very little progress has been made. This year we have ensured that decisions on key projects are finalised and we are currently at contracting stages for the acquisition of various landward defence capabilities.
Members must remember that just before the dawn of democracy many of our capabilities were sold off into private hands, resulting in some of the capability gaps we have today. The current government has inherited the responsibility to correct this gap, while those responsible for it shout from the sidelines. We are confident, however, that during this financial year the process of the consolidation of the needs of the services, as led by the Chief of the SA National Defence Force, will address the sustainability of our capability.
In November 2011 Cabinet approved the acquisition of the VVIP aircraft. We have since consulted with National Treasury and funding has now been approved for the acquisition of this capability in this financial year. The Defence budget for the 2013-14 financial year amounts to R40 243 billion. This is equal to 1,1% of the gross domestic product, GDP, and 3,8% of the total government expenditure.
The support for a viable and competitive defence industry is an integral part of our mandate. It is a matter of concern that over the years South Africa has gradually been losing its influential position as one of the industry leaders in defence innovation. It is for this reason that the department must play a direct role in the restructuring of the defence industry to ensure that it focuses primarily on the requirements of the SA National Defence Force.
We will continue to give attention to government's commitment to improving the lives of our military veterans. As part of this, I have decided to appoint an intervention support team to assist the Department of Military Veterans in creating the systems required to effectively roll out the socioeconomic benefits for our veterans. These systems are urgently required given the fact that an amount of R300 million has been provided for socioeconomic benefits in this financial year. The Deputy Minister will elaborate further on matters affecting military veterans.
Let me assure hon members and fellow South Africans that, despite the challenges of the moment, we will never allow our defence capabilities so essential to the protection of our country to be eroded. In order to achieve this we need the support of all South Africans, including those sitting in this House. We do so informed by the conviction, which we all share, that the Defence Force is our national asset and should be protected. Thank you. [Applause.]