Government ministers said half of the military's budget of $1.15 billion is allocated to employee compensation, a percentage that limits the defense ministry's ability to purchase new equipment.
Because of the organized status of the armed forces, the issue is expected to be hard to reconcile, officials said.
Three years ago, clashes erupted between South African troops and police forces after troops demanded significant salary increases, Political Analysis South Africa Ltd. reported.
As a result of the global economic recession in 2008, even though the defense budget was supposed to rise, Pretoria announced a 4.1 percent nominal cut in its 2010 budget.
South African troops are involved in several peacekeeping missions on the continent and the country's naval forces assist the fight against piracy off Somalia in the Horn of Africa.