Windhoek — The Minister of Defence Penda ya Ndakolo says the ministry did not send 1,000 soldiers home because it cannot feed them, but rather as an exercise to mitigate the current financial situation besieging the country.
"It is not a crisis response and has nothing to do with the sustainability or feeding of the troops," ya Ndakolo said in parliament on Tuesday.
"The army has no problems feeding or sustaining the troops. People must desist from using this issue to score political points," said the minister.
Earlier this month local media reports suggested that thousands of army personnel staying at the seven bases around the country were forced to take leave with effect from February as the army could no longer afford to feed them.
The move was also allegedly meant to save on escalating water and electricity bills, despite the fact that the ministry received N$5.6 billion of the 2017/2018 national budget.
Ya Ndakolo told lawmakers that sending 30 percent of the troops on compulsory paid leave while keeping the 70 percent in military bases is a standard military practice used by armed forces during peacetime and has nothing to do with an inability to feed them.
Ya Ndakolo further maintained that the action was taken as part of a cost-cutting drive to reduce expenditure in view of the present economic situation facing the country.
"The Ministry of Defence wants the Namibian people out there to know that the sending of a certain percent of our troops on compulsory leave is a decision taken together with other cost-cutting measures to mitigate the current financial situation," he said.
In addition to the compulsory leave for troops, other measures to reduce costs and wastage within the defence ministry system include postponement of some major military exercises that require lots of resources to carry out, suspension of recruitment of new members, reduction and control of troops and vehicle movements, and deferment of signing new procurement contracts, among others, to enable the ministry to weather the current storm, ya Ndakolo said.
Ya Ndakolo was adamant that this was done to divert resources to a saving that could be used in support of civil authorities and civil power such as anti-poaching operations and emergencies such as droughts, wildfires, floods and health-related emergencies.