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DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 June 2007
RESERVE FORCE, MOBILITY/ EXIT MECHANISMS FOR THE FORCE, EMPLOYEE INITIATED SEVERANCE PACKAGE FOR PUBLIC SERVANTS: MINISTER and DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS
Acting Chairperson: Mr O Monareng (ANC)
The Use of and Support to the Reserve Force: presentation
Mobility/ Exit Mechanisms for Members of the National Defence Force: presentation
Audio Recording of the Meeting Part1 and Part2
Members of the committee met with Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota and representatives from the Department in order to discuss the reserve force, and the mobility/ exit mechanisms for members of the National Defence Force (SANDF), together with the employee initiated severance package for Public Service Act personnel. The presentation outlined the role of the reserve force, the revitalisation progress in the South African Army, scheduled deployments for reserves, challenges faced in the army, and the support structures in place. The presentation on the exit mechanisms outlined the intention of the exit mechanisms, the guidelines for succession planning, the benefit structures, and a detailed break down of the Mobility Exit Mechanisms and the Employee Initiated Severance Package for Public Service Act Personnel (PSAP). Members stated, in respect of the reserves, that they were pleased to see significant improvements in the reserve system. They asked the Department to comment on the role of the reserve forces in the current strike action, the challenges faced in terms of the needs, and whether there was likely to be a need for conscription. Members asked for clarity on whether there was a promotion policy involved in the training of reservists and also whether the Department anticipated an increase in the number of the reservists. In regard to the Mobility Exit Mechanisms, they sought clarity on the application of pension benefits to Non Statutory Force members, loss of skills when people exited the system, expiry of contracts and the impacts of exit on the benefit structures. Disciplinary procedures were also discussed. The Department concurred that there was still much to be done in achieving representativity in certain ranks.
National Defence Force (SANDF) Reserve force: Use and Support: Briefing by Reserve Force
Major General Roy Anderson, Chief of Defence Reserves, SANDF, briefed the Committee on the role of the reserve force, the revitalisation progress in the South African Army, scheduled deployments for reserves, challenges faced in the army, and the support structures in place. He noted that the reserve force was made up of part-time volunteers. It was approved in 2004 to revitalise and transform the conventional reserve. It was made a priority in 2007. The Reserve Force was to provide the majority of landward conventional capability, supplementation of peace support operations and homeland defence. It was decentralised in recruitment and training, and currently hand around 5 000 members, with a further 2 500 expected to come in from the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) in December 2007. 83 leaders were recruited from the regular force, and there was both officer and non-commissioned officer training. Statistics were tabled of the army conventional reserve strength, broken down across the units, the spending, the deployments of infantry in 2006 and the scheduled deployments for 2007. An average of 4 605 members were called up and paid per year.
Maj Gen Anderson stated that the reserve force was faced with a number of challenges. Legislation to guarantee call ups outside of war times had been drafted. Other challenges included the absorption and motivation of intakes from the MSDS, job creation for former reserve force members, leader group development and employer support. A revitalisation process under way planned to have 1 466 places by 2012. There was emphasis on representivity
The reviatlisation progress of the SA Navy was then briefly outlined, and it was noted that the current strength was 997, with the average call up per month being 110 members. A placement agency had been opened. In the Military Health Services there was a focus on non statutory force recruitment, and recruitment of specialist officers. Various courses had been held.
Maj Gen Anderson noted that the Defence Legal Services, the field post offices, the chaplain services, military police and corporate communications and human resources were all making use of reserve forces. Various support mechanisms were in place to assist with the reskilling and job creation initiatives. The last three years had seen significant progress but this would be dependent for its continuation on larger MSDS intakes, motivation of these members and sufficient budgets and training and employee support.
Mr L Diale (ANC) stated that clarity should be provided on whether there were women engineers in the reserve force, and also whether or not the reserve force had their own intelligence.
Lt-Gen Jansen van Rensburg, Chief of Corporate Staff, replied that the Department did strive for equal opportunity, and there were women engineers in the reserve force but the figures could not be provided immediately. The reservists did not have their own intelligence, and it should be noted that there was only one unified intelligence system within the Department.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) stated that it was good to see that there had been significant improvements in the reserve system. He asked the Department to comment on the role of the reserve forces in the current strike action, as there should have been greater publicity on their role. He also asked for comment on the apparently fine line between legislation and compulsory services. It should be noted that the Australian defence force had a very strong employer backing, and many people were proud to serve in the military. He asked whether in South Africa there was discrimination by employers, and if so, what was being done to address it.
The Hon Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, stated that ideally every citizen of every country could be regarded as a potential soldier when a country went to war, and that the question of call up would not be a matter of choice in many countries. South Africa had adopted a concept which ensured that at any given time there should be a core of trained individuals who could move to the front lines to hold the fort. If South Africa had adopted a conscription system the number of reservists would be limitless, unlike the voluntary system where the number of reservists was limited. The more South Africa managed to attract people into the reserve system the better prepared the country would be for war. It should be noted that if there was ever a war situation, then there would need to be a review of the voluntary system. In regard to discrimination in the workplace the Department needed to have some power over the volunteers who had joined the reserves, so that they were readily available whenever they were needed. The Department also needed to take into account the fact that the volunteer could lose his or her regular income, and therefore a balance must be found between rights and obligations of all parties.
Maj Gen Anderson added that the Department needed to have a closer interaction with business leaders, and to foster a closer working relationship with employers. There was already legislation to state that there should be no discrimination by the employer while the employee was called up.
Mr Anderson added that the Department did not have time to give publicity to the reservists' contributions during the recent strike actions. The Department in any even preferred not to indicate the names of the units, for security reasons, as reservists were deployed close to their communities.
Dr S Pheko (PAC) asked for clarity that if the bulk of the army would be made up of the reserve force, and then asked for clarity on how regular training would take place. He also raised the issue of the challenges faced in terms of the need for reserves, and whether this need might someday lead to some kind of conscription.
Maj Gen Anderson replied that the training was budgeted for 30 days a year every second year, subject to a signed contract. In the years between the reservists would either be deployed or they would be on courses.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC) stated that he was proud of the support given to the reserve force, and asked for comment on how much the Department of Defence had saved through the deployment of part time reserves. He also asked whether there was a promotion policy involved in the training of reservists and whether the Department anticipated an increase in the number of the reservists. Clarity should be provided on whether there were any logistical support units in the reserve force, and whether officers had the financial freedom to use funds to run their own units.
Maj Gen Anderson responded that there was a promotion policy in place, as the reserve officers and the regular officers did the exact same course, and everyone wrote the same examination which allowed for a full career path and structure for promotions. With regard to support units, the army was revitalising the reserve units so that they could play an integral part in the system, and the reserve forces relied on the current logistical system, which was also staffed with reserve forces. It was within the budget for the reserve forces to have financial freedom to spend without approval from a higher authority.
Lt-Gen van Rensburg noted that in regard to savings, calculations had been done, which concluded that the use of reserve forces was between 30% to 50% cheaper than full time forces. Reserve force members were paid only when they were called up, and the reserve force pay scale was the lowest scale. The only cost involved was in the retraining.
Brigadier Gen H Kamffer (Director, Army Reserves) added that in terms of the numbers, the basic idea in the medium term was that one sub-unit should be ready in every conventional reserve force unit. The process had started in 2002, and the Department would soon be rebuilding the sub units within the units.
Lt Gen van Rensburg stated that the details about the sub-units would be provided in the Defence update for 2006, which would shortly be presented to the Committee after it had been approved.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked whether the officer training applied to the reserves. With regard to pilots, she also called for comment on the issue of pilots who owned their own aircrafts working as reservists, as this was possibly discriminatory. She was worried that not enough was being done in legal services to address African issues, and believed that something should be done to address the matter.
Minister Lekota replied that people would sometimes donate or lend the aircraft to the defense force. In most cases the donor usually happened to be a reservist volunteer, therefore that person had every right to fly his or her own plane while working, as they were more likely to know it and look after it better than any other reservist. as they will look after it better than anyone else. It should also be noted that there were African reservists with personally-owned aircraft.
Lt-Gen van Rensburg replied that the officer training was voluntary and a member must apply for a position. With regard to the defence legal services, it should be noted that the Department recruited heavily in order to get more Africans into the legal services positions. It should be noted that there was sufficient representativity in the demographics in the legal service divisions of the reserve force.
Ms Daniels stated that there should be a creative way of rejuvenating the regular force, so that the lifespan of the regular force was not shortened.
Mr S Ntuli (ANC) commended the Department for the time it had dedicated to capacitating the reserves. He asked for further elucidation on how the challenges faced by the MSDS could be resolved. He also asked for comment on the role of the business communities.
Maj Gen Anderson said that in regard to the business community there had been various processes aimed at involving the big businesses, and the Department was constantly looking at ways of involving them.
Mr Ntuli asked if there were benefits such as housing provided to reservists.
Mr Van Rensburg replied that the Department needed to look at issues such as grants and study loans as a means of attracting younger people. Maj Gen Anderson said that skills training and bursaries would be sustainable, but housing benefits would become a major budgetary issue and would not be possible.
Mr Ntuli noted that there were some specific areas of interest in the forces where there was no integration taking place and he called for further explanation on this.
Maj Gen Anderson noted that there were people who were brought into the navy reserve force from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. He added that the Chief of the Air Force has placed heavy emphasis on the issue of representativity. There were black pilots and lady pilots in the reserve forces.
Mr Ntuli asked for clarity on the monitoring mechanisms in place, and also said that the withdrawal of the deployment of the reservists should be done in an orderly fashion.
Mr Nick Sandle, Policy Planning, SANDF, replied that with regard to the withdrawal of troops, it should be noted that under the government programme of action, there were two objectives. These include the transfer of the border control from the Department of Defence to the South African Police Service (SAPS). There were various strictures, known as the joints, which dealt with the internal operations of the transfer. In the joints there would be a full plan in which the whole migration and the closing down of units would be managed.
Ms T Tobias (ANC) stated that issues of the influx of immigrants and foreign policy would be dealt with after consultation with the relevant Committees and Departments.
Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked for comment with regard to the revitalisation process of the reserve force, and also raised the issue of the withdrawal of forces.
Mr M Moatshe (ANC) asked for clarity on whether the commandos were redeployed in the army after their contracts of services came to an end. he asked whether the reservists could be deployed by themselves and who also on who qualified to be a reservist.
Lt-Gen Van Rensburg replied that there was a redeployment of reservists once their contracts were over, that reservists also had the right to operate in their own right, and the retirement age in the reserves was 65 years old. Anyone younger than that could apply to be a reservist.
The Acting Chairperson stated that it was not clear whether legislation on compulsory call ups, if this were to occur, would be confined to reservists.
Lt-Gen van Rensburg replied that in times of war the current legislation regarding call ups would have to be suspended. The new legislation that would be brought forward was to be drafted to deal with what would happen in times of "need" instead of "war".
Ms Tobias stated that there was a need for further consultation needed to be done with the Chairperson of the Committee on Safety and Security. She suggested that perhaps an oversight visit should be arranged to the border posts to see what was the current situation.
Mobility / Exit Mechanism for Members of the SA National Defence Force, and the Employee Initiated Severance Package for Public Service Act Personnel (MEM and EISP for PSAP)
Brigadier General Bruce de Wet, Human Resources, Department of Defence (DOD) presented on the Mobility / Exit Mechanisms (MEM). He stated that the exit mechanisms included the Implementation of the MEM for South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members and the EISP for PSAP. The legal basis was the amendment of rules of the Government Employee Pension Funds, which was approved by National Treasury and the Minister of Defence. The intent of MEM was to lead to a tangible rightsizing progress for the Defence Forces. It was to be run through carefully designed and realistic succession planning, was to guard against the exodus of expertise and scarce skills, was aimed also to advise members on career progress as informed by the transformation and restructuring imperatives, and it gave the members the choice to accept or reject the offer. It was stressed that Mr Anderson replied that the chief of the air force has placed total emphasis on the issue of representivity. It should be noted however that there are black pilots and lady pilots in the reserve force. It was stressed that MEM was a voluntary package. Some groups were constrained by their vital functions or critical shortages of personnel, and it was aimed to retain expertise while aiming to rightsize, to correct race and rank distribution, and to provide succession planning.
EISP was introduced by the Minister of Public Service and Administration on 1 January 2006, and the Department of Defence introduced it in May 2006. The benefits structure comprised of pension benefits and departmental benefits, and employees would initiate their separation via the EISP. It had been difficult to forecast on the exact rightsizing results of the MEM and EISP since both mechanisms were voluntary. It should be noted however that there had been continuous (monthly) monitoring of the progress.
Detailed charts of the benefit structures for both MEM and EISP were tabled, showing the pension benefits under GEPF and Departmental Benefits. Full statistics were given of the race and rank breakdown a at 31 May 2007. The exits, other than through these defined mechanisms, were also tabled for the 2005/6 and 2006/7 years
Mr Ndlovu asked for clarity on whether the pension benefits outlined on slide number 7 applied to NSF members, and whether there was a loss of skills when these people exited from the system.
Brig General De Wet responded that the NSF pension dispensation recognised the contributions made by the NSF members. If an NFS member exited with 20 to 30years of service, the calculations would be accordingly made. With regard to the loss of skills, it should be noted that one of the parameters of the mechanisms was to protect the loss of skills, and there had been a comprehensive plan to identify and protect the scarce skills environment.
Mr Monareng asked for clarity on the issue regarding payment of the 5%.
Lt-General De Wet replied that the 5% issue was very controversial, and the 5% was equated to number of years of service. The issue would soon be addressed through other channels.
Mr Ntuli asked for clarity on whether the expired contracts originated from the MSDS forces. He was alarmed at the high number of exits through death, and asked for explanation.
Brig General De Wet replied that the majority of the contract expiries were directly linked to the MSDS. Others were still in the old service systems, and the medium service system, where a member would abruptly end his services. All the people who exited the system were potential reserve members.
Lt-Gen Van Rensburg stated that the number of deceased was calculated per financial year and was not cumulative.
Mr Ndlovu stated that there was the potential for a situation where members would claim that their contracts had expired and had trouble receiving their pensions. He called for clarity on whether the expiry of contracts only applied to MSDS members.
Brig Gen De Wet replied that all MSDS were serving on a two year system. After going through the MSDS system members moved to a core service system, which was contract based. Prior to the 2010 era there was a short and medium term service. The short term service was about to come to a close and therefore most members were currently serving in the medium term service. If a contract under this medium term service came to an end, the member would receive the MEM benefits, and all members were advised to go for a proper career interview 18 months to 12 months before the contract expired, in order for the member to decide whether to exit or continue.
The Acting Chairperson asked for comment on the impact to the benefit structures when a member decided to exit.
Brig Gen. De Wet stated that the only guarantee the state provided was when an employee planned to purchase a house. One of the ways in which a member could exit the guarantee, if it was being used, was to pay the guarantee in a form of deposit. A member who had chosen this option would take some of his exit money and pay his deposit.
Ms Daniels asked for clarity on what would happen to a member arrested but cleared after a disciplinary process.
Lt-General De Wet stated that the current policy in the Defence Act stated that if a member was absent without permission then the discharge process would be put into operation. It should be noted that the Department would not discharge an individual before a finding of guilty.
Mr Pheko asked for clarity on whether the Department was happy with some of the demographics outlined in the presentation.
Brig Gen De Wet replied that the slide should be seen in terms of the country's demographics. The Department had already achieved a back row representativity figure of 76%. Challenges still were apparent in areas of middle management and the African environment in the lower ranks. The Department had implemented various programmes such as the work regiment to address such issues.
Ms Tobias asked for clarity regarding the progress on the work regiment programme.
Brig Gen. De Wet replied that the strategic concept was ready, and there would be report back to members of the Committee regarding the progress.
The Acting Chairperson commended the Department for its good work on the exit mechanisms.
The meeting was adjourned.
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