Statement by Acting Chairperson of the INDFSC


24 Nov 2010




DATE    :           25 NOVEMBER 2010


[1]        The invitation to serve on the Interim National Defence Service Commission (INDFSC) which was established by the Hon Minister of Defence & Military Veterans, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu during September 2009, amongst others to make recommendations on the mechanisms for a special dispensation outside of the regular public service, for members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF); and to investigate the conditions of service and service benefits of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and make recommendations thereon, was both daunting and humbling.

[2]        It is with a deep sense of pride, joy and fulfilment that we announce today that the INDFSC has delivered on its mandate.  On Tuesday 16 November 2010 the Interim Commission officially handed over its final report to the Hon Minister in Cape Town.  This report contains observations, responses by various stakeholders, its assessment followed by recommendations to the Hon Minister.

[3]        I am particularly pleased to announce that this final report was submitted one month prior to the estimated date of the end of December 2010.  This is in large measure due to the diligence, dedication and hard work of my fellow Commissioners who selflessly gave their time and energy to fulfil the Commission’s mandate.  I salute them.  Equally, credit is due to the Secretariat which worked selflessly and tirelessly to ensure that the Commission remains on track to meet all its deadlines.

[4]        A special word of thanks is due to the leadership of SANDF, the officers commanding all the basis/units which we visited, the Secretary of Defence for their commitment and the support they gave to the INDFSC, not forgetting the soldiers who participated actively and enthusiastically in the Interim Commission’s interaction with them.

[5]        As I’ve already said, our mandate included making recommendations on the mechanisms for a special dispensation outside of the regular public service, for members of the South African National Defence Force; and to investigate their conditions of service and service benefits, for appropriate recommendations thereon. On the first part we submitted a draft Bill in November 2009, which has seen its process through Cabinet and the legislature. On the second part – that of service conditions the work has been ongoing; and will continue to be the business of the proposed permanent National Defence Force Service Commission.  The work has included site visits to various bases and units of the Defence Force; and holding numerous meetings with the leadership of the SANDF and the Secretary of Defence; as well as conducting benchmarking visits to other countries. Where urgent recommendations have been necessary, these have been made to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. I’m sure you will recall our much publicised urgent interim report early in the work of the Interim Commission when we reported on some disturbing living and working conditions at some of the barracks which we had visited.  I am happy to report that many of those disturbing issues on which we had reported have been attended to whilst others are receiving urgent and on-going attention.  Prominent amongst these was the salary packages of the soldiers, which in the Interim Commission’s view, demanded urgent and radical adjustment.  The Interim Commission investigated this as a matter of urgency and made some far-reaching recommendations to the Minister.

[6]        It is now history that in line with her public declaration to meaningfully improve the working and living conditions of the soldiers, the Minister ensured that our recommendations were immediately implemented.  This bold and laudable action on the part of the Minister, in line with her resolve to urgently restore the dignity of the soldiers and their families through meaningful change, resulted in widespread scenes of jubilation amongst the soldiers across the length and breadth of this country when His Excellency, President Zuma made an announcement regarding salary adjustment for soldiers on level 2-12 at the Freedom Park – Tshwane on 16 December 2009. 

[7]        For us as a Commission, it has really been a wonderful and life-changing experience to have had the privilege of participating in a process whose main objective was to improve the quality of life and working conditions of the most important people in any country’s national security – our  soldiers; all of whom are required by the unique nature of their work to put their lives down in pursuit of their constitutional mandate to protect our country and all its inhabitants. Allow me to say a little more about the way we view the place of soldiers in our society. In the first instance, the right to life is enshrined in our constitution; and the soldier is the only professional who, upon signing on, literally surrenders that right to the State and may therefore lay down her life as part of the normal line of duty. As we put it our report and I quote:

Upon joining the SANDF, members voluntarily sacrifice their basic, non-derogable human right to life, for service to their country.    Because they have sacrificed their right to life, the nation must therefore reciprocate with an extra duty of care.  Indeed, when you recruit a soldier, you enlist the family.  This distinguishes them from ordinary civil servants who do not expect to be shot at in their normal course of business. The nation must therefore look after their well-being and that of their families”. 

This recognition of both the surrender of the right to life, and the fact that the whole family is part of the package that the State has to reckon with, is one of the realities that make it imperative to have a special and unique dispensation for the soldiering career. The interim Commission goes further to note that the majority of recruits to the military are drawn from the poorer and less endowed families of all races. The Interim Commission has sought to encourage a longitudinal approach to the recruitment and career development of the soldier – offering her an opportunity to access skills and a relevant, marketable higher education that secures their future beyond the military. And because the recruits come from and understand their communities, it also helps to have an integrated approach that anchors them through strategic and targeted peace-time community service that constantly lubricates the bridge between the Defence Force and the citizen population it serves.

[8]        We would be remiss if we ended our statement without emphasizing that the country – government, business and the populace at large, will need to think differently about the funding requirements of the National Defence Force. Creative ways will need to be considered to ensure that the necessary fundamentals for the kind of Defence Force this country needs and deserves – a defence at the service of humanity, but which is also a part of the development strategy for young South Africans, is effectively sustained.

[9]        Finally, I wish to report that our final report which contains our observations, assessment and recommendations made from our broad consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the soldiers at various bases and units, our local and international benchmarking excursions to UK, USA and Russia will now be the subject of normal parliamentary processes.

[10]       It remains our fervent wish that the Government, through the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans will act expeditiously on some of the pressing and urgent issues identified and recommendations made in the report.

I thank you.

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana

Acting Chairperson:  Interim National Defence Force Service Commission


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