Meeting SummaryThe Director: Military Strategy of the South African Defence Force briefed the Committee on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.
The recommendations concerned the relationship between the Military Command and the Defence Secretariat; the disempowerment of Officers Commanding; the defence budget allocation and composition; the state of defence infrastructure; the provision of health care and transport to military personnel; career management within the Defence Force; the military skills development system; transformation of the SANDF; the grievance mechanism; command, control and communication in the SANDF; promotion and utilisation of resources; remuneration and conditions of service; the establishment of a permanent Defence Force Service Commission; international benchmarking; the rank audit of demilitarised finance functionaries and the overall wellness of the Department of Defence. The implementation of certain recommendations was still in progress.
The draft Defence Review document had been compiled and would be presented to the Parliamentary oversight Committees by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans as soon as a date had been set.
Members asked questions about the maintenance of infrastructure; the draft Defence Review; the promotions policy; the appointment of Task Teams and the relationship between the Military Command and Defence Secretariat.
The Committee requested a more comprehensive report on the transformation of the SANDF and a revised progress report that indicated target dates and responsibility for implementing the recommendations.
Briefing by the Department of Defence (DOD)
R Adm (JG) Alan Green, Director: Military Strategy, SANDF presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).
The introduction to the presentation included an overview of the mandate of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the background to the recommendations of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission (INDFSC).
Feedback was provided on the progress made on the recommendations concerning the relationship between the Military Command and the Defence Secretariat; the disempowerment of Officers Commanding; the defence budget allocation and composition; the state of defence infrastructure; the provision of health care and transport to military personnel; career management within the Defence Force; the military skills development system; transformation of the SANDF; the grievance mechanism; command, control and communication in the SANDF; promotion and utilisation of resources; remuneration and conditions of service in the SANDF; the establishment of a permanent Defence Force Service Commission; international benchmarking; the rank audit of demilitarised finance functionaries and the overall wellness of the DOD.
Mr Montsitsi observed that certain recommendations had been implemented but others were still work in progress. He requested further clarity on the recommendation concerning the relationship between the Military Command and the Defence Secretariat. He asked what the status was of the dolomite survey at the Lenz base. Uniformed members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) qualified for discounted public transport and he asked what progress had been made to make the same benefit available to members of the SANDF. He requested a more comprehensive briefing on the demographics of the ranks within the SANDF at a later date. The briefing should include a comparison to the report compiled five years ago as well as the progress made with career management. Problems with the current exit mechanism included a lack of resources and inadequate pensions.
Mr D Bloem (COPE,
Mr D Maynier (DA) said that the INDFSC had recommended that a full defence review was undertaken. He asked when the review would commence, what process would be followed and what the duration would be. He observed no evidence of a radical re-thinking with regard to the promotion policy of the SANDF. He quoted the recommendation made by the INDFSC with regard to promotions, which he considered to be a radical departure from the current policy. He asked if the SANDF planned to implement the recommendation in full.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) observed that several task teams had been appointed to address certain recommendations. He asked how many task teams had been established and who they reported to.
Mr Maake advised that a new Armscor Board was appointed with effect from 1 May 2011. The new Board had requested the Committee to allow a grace period of six to eight weeks to allow members to familiarise themselves with the issues. The meeting with Armscor had been postponed to 29 June 2011.
Lt Gen Vejaynand Ramlakan, Surgeon-General, SANDF responded that the Minister of Defence had stated in her budget speech to Parliament on 13 April 2011 that a draft defence review document had been drawn up. The Minister awaited the opportunity to present the draft review to the Parliamentary Committees at their earliest convenience. The review would be subjected to a public participation process before being presented to Parliament. A draft proposal to reposition the Defence Secretariat had been compiled and would also be presented to the oversight Committees. The Minister had also made reference to the National Youth Service and the defence industry. The Minister had committed herself to address the need to review the policy on defence and awaited confirmation of the dates when the draft documents would be presented to the Committees. She urged Members to refrain from using the draft documents for “cheap publicity stunts”. He felt that it was not appropriate to discuss the content of the documents at this meeting and had not been authorised by the Minister to provide any details.
Brig Gen David Masters, Acting Chief of Logistics, SANDF advised that the dolomite survey at Lenz was in progress and a report had not yet been submitted. The contractors at the Doornkop base were appointed by the Department of Public Works two years ago. The SANDF’s Works Formation was established on 1 May 2011 but did not yet have the required capacity to take over the maintenance function. A facility management strategy was in place. The existing structures had been merged into an integrated service corps. Eight regional units were established, comprising 1023 men. The functions that would be taken over from the Department of Public Works had been identified. The Works Formation currently had 98 qualified artisans but additional personnel were being trained. The SANDF was actively recruiting students at universities and technical colleges to join the Defence Force after qualifying.
Brig Gen Andries de Wit, Acting Chief of Human Resources, SANDF said that there was a link between the promotion policy and career management. It was necessary to harmonise the needs of the individual with that of the organisation. The intention was to provide each member of the SANDF with a career plan. Research had been undertaken a new identity system was introduced. The review of the promotion policy was at an advanced stage. The current performance as well as future potential of the individual was taken into consideration. A Plenary Council had been established. A new performance assessment tool would be acquired in the following financial year. The status, training and qualifications of personnel were considered. The current exit mechanism was based on the “up or out” principle. A Mobility Exit Mechanism had been introduced but required review and further enhancement to be effective. The data on the racial and gender composition of ranks was available. Discussions with local government authorities on public transport benefits for soldiers were being held.
Lt Gen Ramlakan agreed that more had to be done to implement the recommendations of the INDFSC. The Committee’s request for a comprehensive briefing on transformation in the SANDF was noted. The process to equalise pensions had been delayed pending the outcome of discussions with the National Treasury. The principle of equal pensions was accepted. Four Task Teams were established – three teams worked on budgetary issues and one focused on the Defence Review. The teams had completed the draft documents, which would be approved by the Defence Council before submission to the Minister. The re-thinking of the promotion policy was welcomed. There were unique features in service in the military and a number of factors needed to be taken into account. Previously successful aspects should be retained. Operations differed during times of war and peace but the SANDF had to be prepared to carry out its mandate at all times. The potential of individuals had to be recognised and all factors needed to be considered in the review of the staff policies. In an environment where there was a high rate of unemployment, the “up or out” exit strategy was problematic. Progress was being made but it must be understood that promotion was limited to the number of vacant positions available.
Mr Montsitsi said that the requirements for academic qualifications and quality of service were acceptable but opportunities for further study had to be available to members of the SANDF aspiring to promotion. The review would indicate which aspects were acceptable, workable and relevant. The purpose of the policies was to achieve transformation of the Defence Force and old, ineffective practices had to be discarded. He recalled that a report on the Air Force in 2006/07 had reported that all 21 candidates from previously disadvantaged backgrounds had failed but the same candidates subsequently passed a course in
Mr M Steele (DA) requested that the SANDF considered which functions had to be carried out rather than the continued existence of immovable assets in the review.
Mr Maynier asked the Chairperson when the Committee would invite the Minister to present the Defence Review. The previous promotions policy of the SANDF was highly politicised and was not based on merit. A promotion policy based on merit was welcomed.
Mr P Pretorius (DA) asked for the assurance that both the Military Command and the Defence Secretariat supported the revised demarcation of functions.
Mr Maake requested that the feedback report was structured in a manner that indicated what had to be done, who was responsible and what the target dates were. This would make it easier for the Committee to track the progress that had been made in implementing the recommendations.
Dr Thobekile Gamede, Chief Director: Policy and Strategic Planning, DOD assured the Committee that the Defence Secretariat had been involved in drafting and finalising the proposal to the Minister concerning the functions of the Military Command and the Secretariat.
Lt Gen Ramlakan advised that the response of the Minister to the proposal was awaited. The relationship between the two entities also featured in the Defence Review.
Brig Gen De Wit explained that the SANDF had military training as well as academic programmes in place. Opportunities to study at universities at State expense were available. In addition, candidates could enroll in short courses (with a duration of six or twelve months or seminars) to enhance their skills. Study Boards were in place and played a role in performance reviews.
Lt Gen Ramlakan conceded that previous efforts in transformation and integration had not always been successful. He assured the Committee that the policy was adhered to at the senior level. The senior command structure was fully representative and required to adhere to the national policy. He agreed that a promotions policy based on merit had been neglected and guidelines needed to be developed. He agreed to submit a more detailed report on transformation to the Committee, which would include data on the demographics that could be used by the Committee for monitoring and evaluation purposes. The revised policy took into account the needs and capacity of individuals. The SANDF wished to avoid the mistakes made in the past, for example the decision to close the naval base at
Brig Gen Masters explained that the SANDF had an integrated fixed asset management system in place, which included a fixed asset register and professional facilities management. The execution of the policy on fixed assets and facilities managed were included in the responsibilities of the Officers Commanding. The SANDF had recently taken over border control from SAPS. The bad state of repair of facilities at the border posts was a challenge.
Mr Montsitsi summarised the outstanding matters that arose during the proceedings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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