The South African Air Force briefed the Committee on the progress and challenges in implementing the transformation goals. In terms of the South African Air Force regulatory framework there were mechanisms that had been established to achieve transformation such as a promotion policy, transformation policy, recruitment, enhancement of black middle management and exit mechanisms. There were however phenomenon’s that tended to avert transformation such as unintended barriers, non-compliance to policy and consequences of complying. The South African Air Force attempted to achieve representivity at all levels by recruiting an additional 20% black pilots and navigators. An increase in female candidate recruitment to 40% was seen in the Air Force. It was stressed that there was need to get the top level SAAF officials to move on so that candidates in entry level ranks would also move up the ranks. The Air Force's recruitment strategy helped to improve representivity but it had no impact on the middle management level.
In terms of recruitment, the Air Force’s processes were not synchronized with the expectation of parents. The focus areas this year would be on recruitment and career management. The South African Air Force’s selection during the 2012 June school vacation would include both grade 12 and 11 learners. In addition they were moving from paper driven recruitment to digital ICT-driven recruitment. In conclusion there was slow progress being made in trying to reach race representivity targets.
Most Members stressed their disappointment in the slow transformation within the Air Force as compared to the Navy and other South African National Defence Force departments. It was highlighted that there was need for the Committee to work closely with the Air Force because the Committee was worried about what was happening within the South African National Defence Force.
Concern was raised over why the South African Air Force did not have a fast tracking exit strategy why there were very few female blacks that were getting opportunities in the Air Force. Furthermore it was pointed out that at the women’s' day celebrations held by the Air Force, the programme director was male so was most of the personnel who were participating in the programme. The Air Force was requested to take women on board in everything that they did.
Due to time constraints the Air Force was asked to respond to some of the questions in writing. The Committee also requested that the Air Force appear before the Committee before the end of the year.
The Chairperson began by giving apologies on behalf of his co-chairperson and other Members.
Briefing by the Chief of the Air Force on Transformation
Lieutenant-General Carlo Gagiano, Chief of the Air Force, South African Air Force, highlighted that his aim was to brief the Committee on the South African Air Forces (SAAF's) progress and challenges in implementing the transformation goals. In 1996 the defence review envisaged a 40:30:30 ratio for defence spending on personnel, operating and capital costs after the transformation process was completed. However this had not been achieved as yet. Pre 2002 the SAAF had a flexible service system that was subsequently changed to a long-term service system that enabled people to retire at 60. In 2002 the HR Strategy 2010 was established. The majority of recruits that would participate in the Military Skills Development Systems (MSDS) programme would exit the SAAF after two years. The HR strategy was further translated into a Core Service System (CSS) that had one to 20 years’ contracts on a selective non-renewal. The SAAF was disadvantaged due to the limited number of qualified aviation personnel.
In terms of the SAAF regulatory framework there were mechanisms that had been established to achieve transformation such as a promotion policy, transformation policy, recruitment, enhancement of black middle management and exit mechanisms. There were however phenomenon’s that tended to avert transformation such as unintended barriers, non-compliance to policy and consequences of complying. The SAAF attempted to achieve representivity at all levels by recruiting an additional 20% black pilots and navigators. An increase in female candidate recruitment to 40% was seen in the SAAF. There was need to develop an exit strategy for senior/top level SAAF officials so that candidates in entry level positions could also move up the ranks.
The SAAF had a fast tracking policy. Fast tracking entailed the development of identified official's career ahead of others through accelerated, education, training and development. The main beneficiaries of the process would initially be the designated groups, as a remedial process, with the aim of promoting representivity and empowerment. Once representivity had been achieved, non-designated groups would also be considered for fast tracking. Fast tracking remained an equity programme to manage careers and it was supposed to be incorporated into existing career management policies and practices. In addition fast tracking was formally instituted in 2004.
A brief synopsis was given of the minimum period in rank that SAAF officers were required to undergo from Airman and Lance Corporal to Major General and Lieutenant General.
The SAAF presented their attrition figures since 2007. In the 2007/8 financial year the SAAF lost 804 personnel, 1347 personnel in 2008/9, 478 in 2009/10, 385 in 2010/11 and 229 personnel in 2011/12.
The SAAF's recruitment strategy helped to improve representivity but it had no impact on the middle management level. The practice of placing newly commissioned officers in ranks that did not recognise their years and Newly Commissioned Officers (NCOs) meant that they remained junior officers for an extensive period. The SAAF sought to overcome this through proposing an initiative that would give newly commissioned black officers recognition for the years that they served as NCOs. However this had had some effect on the number of blacks available for senior NCO posts.
Attrition at senior levels affected the SAAF's ability to speed up the rate of transformation. Furthermore although the mobility and exit mechanism was an employer initiated exit mechanism, it required the acceptance of a member. Most senior members under 55 years were reluctant to accept the packages because of the limitations of the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) rules. In addition voluntary resignations had dropped considerably due the downturn of the world economy and the improvement of conditions of service for SANDF members.
The unintended barriers were also outlined such as the absence of a compulsory exit mechanism that impeded rank mobility. The SAAF specialist mustering consisted of four broad categories namely pilots and navigators, engineers, command and control personnel and technical personnel. All specialist musterings were impacted on by the same internal and external factors. A factor analysis covering the entire specialist indicated the major areas of concern such to be the quantity and quality of school leavers. The number of high school leavers who did both mathematics and physical science were not enough and these were some of the requirements that candidates had to comply with if they intended to work for the SAAF. SAAF had a very slim chance of recruiting school leavers because they were not considered as the employer of choice because they had to compete with a wide range of industries and companies.
In terms of recruitment, the SAAF processes were not synchronised with the expectation of parents. The focus areas this year would be on recruitment and career management. The SAAF selection during the 2012 June school vacation would include both grade 12 and 11 learners. In addition they were moving from paper driven recruitment to digital ICT-driven recruitment.
In terms of assessment, the assessment of candidate pupils were among the most extensive in the SANDF as it set to meet the profile of the physical, psychological and intellectual demands of a combat pilot. Firstly all candidates' anthropometrics measurements were supposed to be within the ejector seat specifications. The considerable effect of the ejector seat parameters on the selection of both black and white females led to the SAAF to set aside R63 million for the modification of the ejector seats. There was also a disproportionate number of black candidates with the right academic results and anthropometrics measurements who did not pass the pilot selection.
It was highlighted that the general combat pilot training took three years from recruitment. When candidates started their training they used a basic aircraft that saved money because it cost less. As such basic skills were acquired on a Pilatus MK7 as opposed to a Hawk. The SAAF had also introduced simulator flying to cut costs and improve the efficiency and training of the pilots. An Oryx simulator was bought from the Swiss Air Force and to use it cost the SAAF R8 000 an hour as opposed to R40 000 an hour that was spent on the actual Oryx helicopter.
Figures were given of the total number of apprentices who qualified as artisans. Concern was raised about the continuous decrease of the numbers. SAAF's success of recruiting technical officers and technical NCOs for black middle management had not yet reached the levels that the SAAF aimed for.
In conclusion there was slow progress being made in trying to reach race representivity targets.
The Chairperson said that the mandate of the Committee was to deal with the transformation of the SANDF and in executing their mandate the Committee was going to zoom in and go to the extent of meeting with the troops on the ground and interact with them. SAAF was last in transformation and women empowerment as compared to the SA Navy and other SANDF Departments. There was need for the Committee to work closely with the SAAF because the Committee was worried about what was happening within the SANDF.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) said that to say that recession had contributed to the lack of transformation was shocking and highlighted that recession started about two years ago. He asked why SAAF did not have a fast tracking exit strategy. He noted that there were very few female blacks that were getting opportunities in SAAF.
Ms M Mafolo (ANC) said that she was disappointed at what was happening in the SAAF. She highlighted that Lt Gen Gagiano had given the Committee percentages as opposed to numbers that were not very useful. In addition the SAAF presentation did not contain what the Committee wanted to hear. There was no transformation in the SAAF.
Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked whether it was by design that whenever the SAAF presented they only brought senior management instead of personnel who did the groundwork. The SAAF presentation was said to contain only challenges. The presentation did not correctly outline how SAAF recruited its personnel or the picture of the instructorate that the SAAF had or the demographics thereof. The presentation was seemingly a reflection that the SAAF was not interested in the actual transformation of the Department. In addition there was no mention of any collaboration with the Department of Higher Education or how long the challenges were going to last. In the annual report the Committee was told that the SAAF had met and exceeded its flying hours but in the presentation there was no reflection of this. The Member highlighted that there were a number of questions that she had asked that she expected to be responded in the presentation. She asked why there was a low number of candidates who passed their training, what the problem was and how were the candidates being assisted so that they could qualify especially in light of the fact that there were scarce skills in government. In addition she asked whether the SAAF had adequate contracts that would enable such candidates after having been trained by the SAAF to work for the SAAF. The presentation did not address or reflect any of the concerns of the Committee Members.
Mr T Mofokeng (
Ms M Dikgale (
The Chairperson said that there was a problem with the manner in which the AMG was supposed to be utilized. The SAAF AMG was supposed to provide for scarce skills. The contracts of retired officials who came back into the system did not seem to be properly standardised. There was need for such retired officials to come back and help young pilots as opposed to replacing the young pilots. Concern was raised over the representation of black people in senior positions. The SAAF was supposed to come up with a rigorous transformation agenda. He asked how the Department was utilizing the funds that had been allocated to them. In addition there was need for the SAAF to draft a programme that would accommodate African women. He highlighted that on two occasions the SAAF hired a plane for the Deputy President that got stuck on all two occasions. He asked why the SAAF kept on using the same supplier.
Mr D Bloem (
The Chairperson highlighted that there was going to be a caucus meeting hence there was no sufficient time to interact with the SAAF. He suggested that the SAAF and the Committee meet together within a month
Lt Gen Gagiano responded that he had retired at the end of March 2011 but as a result of the huge turnover in the SAAF senior leadership the Minister saw it prudent and for the sake of stability to re-appoint him for another year. As such his contract would end in March 2012. The concerns that the Committee had raised had been noted. There was not a day that the SAAF management did not grapple with the problems that they faced. The SAAF long-term plans were not materializing and the short-term plans were not improving the situation. There was no gender representation in the meeting because it was best to bring the people who worked directly with the strategy and the plans. He agreed that they were wrong and they were supposed to have been accompanied by female personnel to the meeting with the Committee. As such he apologized for the conduct. He suggested that the Committee receive a written response from the SAAF. He agreed to give the Committee figures instead of percentages in the document that the SAAF would send to the Committee.
Brigadier General C Masters, SAAF, replied that SAAF was seriously challenged with the issue of contract management and it was related to the older senior people the majority of whom were white. It was not cheap to exist personnel since the personnel wanted packages that made it worth a while form them to exit the SAAF. The SAAF made attempts to use the provision in the GEPF to exit some of the personnel. However this kind of exiting could not be done by either the SAAF or the Department of Defence on their own but it required the support of the Department of Public Service and Administration and the National Treasury at a cost. The only way they could get younger people who were black and predominantly female was to create space by exiting senior personnel. The same frustrations that the Committee faced were the same frustrations that some of the junior personnel in the Air Force felt. The problem was that the senior personnel had signed contracts that would lapse when they reached 60 years old.
The Chairperson said that the Committee appreciated the good work that the senior personnel in the Air Force did because some of the personnel were impressed by the type of training they had received. He thanked Lt Gen Gagiano for being there for the SAAF. The SAAF was not supposed to consider the issue of the extension of the retirement age for its senior personnel. He urged the SAAF to address the issues of the Zimbabwean instructors, because a number of candidates, particularly African and Black pilots were comfortable with the instructors, and that of hiring commercial planes for the Deputy President.
The meeting was adjourned.
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