SA National Defence Force progress of employment: Department of Defence briefing


23 November 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Montsitsi (ANC, Gauteng)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Defence gave three presentations on the transformation progress in the South African Defence Force (SANDF) and its readiness, capacity and transformation in accordance with the White Paper. The South African Army noted that transformation involved political, organisational, demographical and cultural transformation, and required continuous improvements that would lead to the achievement of a cohesive, mission-ready force, that was disciplined, credible and representative, with a shared value system. The Defence Review had noted that transformation extended to values, traditions, human resources and managerial practices. The South African Army provided statistical information on its gender distribution, in which it noted that men still constituted the majority of the army, with 81% males and 19% females. Although there had been a steady increase in the number of women employed, and their rise in the middle ranks was improving, there were still few women employed in the top positions. Reasons cited for the gender discrepancy included the pyramid structure of the army and the unavailability of positions, as well as the fact that promotions were dependent on past performance and experience, as well as minimum periods in rank, and security qualifications.  The racial demographics were provided, which showed that Black and White were well represented, but Coloured and Indian were poorly represented. African males made up 50% of the management structures, whilst 4.2% African women were in top positions, Africans in management comprised 55% and White management of 39% comprised 35% male and 4.2% women. Coloured management was 6.1% overall, broken down into 5.6% male and 1% female, and there was only one Asian, a woman, in management. Army officers were 61.9% Black, 23.4% White, 14.2% Coloured and 0.5% Asian. More African people were entering the Army, whilst numbers of other racial groups were declining. The challenges faced by the Army included the lack of an attractive exit mechanism, and the fact that the budget for the human resources (HR) component was higher than that of the operational component. The Army was committed to gender mainstreaming and said that transformation was proceeding.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) gave an overview of the history and present structures of the human resources, with increased expenditure on human resources. There were still some problems in recruiting personnel from the minority race groups. The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) had increased the number of young recruits, although there was still more work to be done in this area. One of the major problems was shortage of scarce and critical skills, due both to competition from the private sector and personnel seeking appointments in other countries. However, interventions to improve the salaries and conditions of service in 2009 had slowed the exit, and a new retention strategy was being developed. The reasons for exit were outlined. Scarce skills were in various fields, including pilots and navigators, airspace controllers, naval combat officers, professional engineers, technical skills, health professionals and nurses. Data on the scarce skills retention incentives paid for the 2010/2011 financial year was also provided. The current centralised recruitment process would, from 2012, be changed to a decentralised system, which should shorten the process and make it more efficient. The challenges included insufficient funding and escalation of human resources spending.

The Joint Operations Service Division briefed the Committee, noting that it was responsible for all joint force employment, had to
determine required Defence capabilities, and direct and guide their management, including the provision of operational capabilities to successfully conduct Joint Force Employment. It also provided contingency-ready plans, supported joint-operations command and control systems, and undertook the preparation of joint, interdepartmental and multi-national forces. Security was a prerequisite for African peace and prosperity. There were a number of environmental, physical, human and informational challenges in the African battle space. The military force was increasingly providing not only peace operations, but also providing aid. This Division aimed to develop its own capabilities to address the demands and realities of the African battle space, whilst protecting its own forces across all dimensions, training leadership, and ensuring readiness for future challenges.

The Committee requested statistics on the number of vacant positions which had been filled, as well as the steps taken to recruit women, and expressed serious concerns about the low number of women in senior positions, as well as the low numbers of Asians and declining youth recruitment. They wanted to know what strategies were being used for recruitment and how posts were advertised, and suggested that communities be encouraged to participate in the process. A Member queried why disciplinary requirements were listed in the promotion and hiring processes, questioning whether this would not lead to marginalisation, but the SANDF stressed that discipline was the backbone of the structures and was of utmost importance. Members asked for more detail on the exit mechanisms, and asked if the National Skills Fund was being used, asked how many soldiers were in the additional structures, questioned disparities in pensions during the period of integration, and commented on the plight of women in the SANDF in general, and the South African Army in particular, including abuse of women, requiring them to share accommodation with men at times, and the fact that when they complained they were warned that this could affect their promotion. Members also questioned why private companies were recruiting pilots and navy personnel, although inactive pilots were in the Army. Some questions were addressed, but others, because of time constraints, were to be answered in writing.

Meeting report

South African National Defence Force: Demographics and progress of employment: Department of Defence briefing
The Chairperson noted apologies from the Acting Secretary of Defence. He stated that the purpose of today’s presentations was that the Department of Defence (DOD or the Department) should explain the demographic representation of personnel in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) army divisions, and its readiness, capacity and transformation, in accordance with the White Paper.

Lieutenant-General Vusimuzo Masondo, Chief, South African Army, introduced the delegates from the various divisions and noted that there had been tremendous progress in transformation in the military.

South African Army Briefing
Major-General Sazi Veldtman, Chief: Army Corporate Services, South African Army briefed the Committee on the employment process in the South African Army. He noted that his presentation would deal with transformation, management structures, promotion in demographics and challenges.

The concept of transformation within the Department of Defence referred to the continuous improvement that would result in, amongst others, the achievement of a cohesive, mission-ready force, a shared value system, the building of an efficient, just, caring and better performing organisation, as well as the creation of a disciplined, credible, legitimate and representative force. Transformation entailed political transformation, organisational transformation and demographic transformation. It also would lead to an overhaul of the composition of the institution with regard to its racial, ethnic, and regional and gender composition and its human resource practices.

Maj-Gen Veldtman said that chapters 9 and 10 of the Defence Review had described the necessity for the normative and cultural transformation of the DOD, and it had referred to the transformation of the DOD in relation to its values, traditions, human resource practices and managerial practices. This would include setting up equal opportunity and affirmative action programmes that would ensure that the DOD would be broadly representative of South Africa’s demographic composition.
The Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans had expressed a commitment to align itself to the South African Constitution and the international prescripts on issues relating to gender equality and human rights. There had been a specific commitment to the transformation of the traditions of both the full time and part-time components, the creation of a military professional ethic, transformation of management practices and upholding of non-racial and non-discriminatory institutional culture.

The gender distribution of the army was outlined. He noted that the Army currently consisted of 81% males and 19% females. He also noted that status of transformation by gender as at 1 November 2011. He stated that although there were no women n the top positions of General, Lieutenant-General and Major-General, there was a steady increase of women in the middle ranks. He noted that the Army had a pyramid structure and positions were dependent not only on availability but also on experience and number of years served.

The transformation status, broken down by race, was then tabled. The racial groups of Blacks and White were well represented in the Army, although there was a steady decrease in the number of white employees at lower ranks. There were average numbers of Coloured personnel, but very few Indians in the force.

The management structures were then presented, showing racial and gender breakdowns. Maj-Gen
Veldtman noted that African males made up 50% of the management structures, whilst 4.2% African women were in top positions. The total number of Africans in management was 55%. Of the total of 39% Whites in army management, 35% were men and only 4.2% were women. Representation of Coloureds in management was provided, and he noted that Coloured representation in the Army management structures overall was 6.1%, of whom 5.6% were males and 1% females. Representation of Asians in the Army management structures was 0.1%, with no male and only one Asian woman in management.

Maj-Gen Veldtman reiterated that when considering transformation, it was necessary to consider the requirements for promotion, which included vacancies and posts requirements, qualifications, performance and potential, experience and minimum period in rank and security qualification.

The demographic breakdown of the Army officers, in terms of race and gender, was provided. Africans constituted 61.9%, Whites 23.4%, Coloureds 14.2% and Asians 0.5%. The representation of women in the Army in general was still low.

The demographic composition of Army pioneers and civilians, showing race and gender at entry level, was provided. There were high numbers of Africans joining the army and the number of Whites, Coloureds and Asians was decreasing.
The challenges faced by the Army included the lack of an attractive exit mechanism, and the fact that the budget for the human resources (HR) component was higher than that of the operational component.

Maj-Gen Veldtman concluded that the endorsement of transformation, including gender mainstreaming and its implementation by the Army at all levels, had ensured the advancement of previously disadvantaged groups in the Army. It seemed that transformation in the Army was proceeding smoothly, and with the full support if the military system, although lack of an attractive exit mechanism was still a concern. He stressed that the Army had a policy to transform its human resources to reflect the values and aspirations contained in the Constitution.

South African National Defence Force briefing
Brigadier General Peter Seloane, Chief: Human Resources, South African National Defence Force, gave a presentation on the progress of employment in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). He firstly provided a human-resources overview, in which he provided statistics on the full-time human resource component evolution (see attached presentation for details), as well as the human resource expenditure over the years. Statistics on transformation progress, in terms of race and gender, were also provided, as well as progressive employment and rank-age improvement in relation to Privates.

Brig-Gen Seloane noted that there was increased expenditure towards the Human Resource components of the SANDF. There were still some problems in recruiting personnel from the minority race groups. The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) had increased the number of young recruits, although there was still more work to be done in this area.

The shortage of scarce and critical skills in SANDF was a universal phenomenon, and was due to competition from the private sector and international “job hopping”, facilitated by globalisation. The Department’s scarce skills shortage had peaked in 2006/2007, when 1 370 scarce-skilled personnel left the SANDF. Since then, the exit tempo had declined significantly, due to improved salaries for the SANDF members introduced in July 2009, and the implementation and regular improvement of monetary incentives and labour market conditions, meaning that fewer people would be induced to seek work elsewhere. However, this was still regarded as a strategic issue. The SANDF was developing a new Retention Strategy, which should be completed by March 2012, to manage the matter holistically. Reasons for exits of scarce-skilled personnel included resignation, contract expiry, Mobility Exit Mechanism, retirement, death, inter-department transfer, discharge and medical discharge.

He outlined graphs showing the scarce skills and these indicated that the scarce skills were in various fields, including pilots and navigators, airspace controllers, naval combat officers, professional engineers, technical skills, health professionals and nurses (see attached presentation for full details). Data on the scarce skills retention incentives paid for the 2010/2011 financial year was also provided.

Brig-Gen Seloane noted that the Department had decided that, in 2012, the
current centralised appointment process, used for recruiting, selection and appointment for Levels 1 to 10, should be decentralised to Services. This would make the employment process more efficient and shorter.  

Brig-Gen Seloane said, in conclusion, that since 1994, the SANDF continued to make progress in various domains of employment, including progress in relation to transformation, rejuvenation, training and utilisation of youth through the MSDS. The primary and most immediate challenges impacting on further progress of employment were insufficient funding, the escalation of HR expenditure compared to the total budget allocation, and challenges to retain scarce skills, especially once the economy improved.

Joint Operation Service Division briefing
Colonel A Grundling, Joint Operation Service Division, SANDF, briefed the Committee on the Division’s activities. The Division was responsible for all Joint Force employment, and it aimed to ensure successful employment. It was required to
determine required Defence capabilities, and direct and guide their management, including the provision of operational capabilities to successfully conduct Joint Force Employment. The functions of the Joint Operation Service Division were to direct the Force Employment Strategy, manage employment of Joint Forces, participate in the government Programme of Action, provide contingency-ready plans and provide joint operational capabilities. Other functions included the provision of ready and supported joint operations command and control system, development and assessment of doctrine for the execution of joint operations and the preparation of joint, interdepartmental and multi-national forces.

Col Grundling said that security was a prerequisite for African peace and prosperity. The military strategy held the national security strategy as the highest priority, followed by the corporate strategy (which covered the military strategy and the business strategy), and then the operations and services divisions. A more holistic approach to missions would be adopted, taking into account military strategic objectives and the strategic concepts.

The Joint Force employment strategy took a multi-national approach, which was aimed at establishing regional structures to foster developments, and give
support to government’s focus via National Security Council and Cabinet Clusters. There would be an interdepartmental approach, with the focus on improving co-operation between State departments and giving assistance according to the means available. Furthermore, there would be an acceptance of mutual responsibility for early warning / early action to enhance a pro-active stance in maintaining peace and stability in the region. All the operations would be executed with a joint or multinational mission-trained task force. The criteria that impacted on the strategy included affordability, concept of operations, African stand-by forces, African battle space and government priorities.

The main challenge that the Joint Operation Service Division was facing was that complexities of operations were increasing while the defence budget was declining. There were also a great number of complexities in the African battle space, classified in the broad categories of the environment, physical, human and informational challenges. There was a widened spectrum of the military force to include not only peace operations and war, but now also increased involvement in provision of aid.

The Joint Force employment activities included ensuring mission readiness and training of the forces.
The approach of the Division was to have a balanced Defence Force, and to develop the Division’s capabilities to address the African battle space demands and realities. The Division also aimed at ensuring full protection of its own forces across all dimensions, training leadership for these situations and ensuring, through lessons learnt and experience gained, that military success would be achieved. In addition the Division would endeavour to develop its human resources to ensure that they were ready for future battles and challenges.

Ms N Mabedla (ANC) observed that the presentation had given the number of people in the structures, but had not mentioned the numbers of vacant posts, nor specifically mentioned the recruitment of women.

Mr B Fihla (ANC) raised concerns about the recruitment of Asians.

Mr Fihla was also concerned that the graphs did not show that there was growth in posts held by women. One possible reason for this could be the absence of systems to increase and involve women in the ranks.

Ms M Dikgale (ANC) raised concerns on the numbers of youth recruited.

The Chairperson asked if the Department placed advertisements when recruiting, or if recruitment was done through other programmes. He thought that there was a necessity also to encourage communities to be more involved in encouraging recruitment.

Ms Mabedla raised concerns over the numbers of women recruited to senior positions and asked the Department to explain the reasons why they were apparently not being appointed. She also raised concerns that the most recent promotions also had very few women listed.

Ms Mabedla noted the requirements for promotion listed, but was concerned about the fact that disciplinary requirements were stated as a criterion for some posts. She asked whether this was not delaying and marginalising transformation.

Mr D Maynier (DA) referred to the Army’s presentation and the concerns raised concerning the exit mechanisms. He asked how many soldiers were in the additional structure.

The Chairperson also referred to the exit mechanism and asked if the Department had considered whether, and to what extent, the National Skills Fund could be used.

The Chairperson referred to the question of pensions during demobilisation, and noted that there were disparities during periods of integration. He asked that the exact figures should be provided by the human resources division about the payment of SANDF members.

The Chairperson also commented on the plight of women in the SANDF in general, and the South African Army in particular. There were concerns about the problem of abuse of women, and combat conditions, when they were required, at times, to share accommodation with men. It was also alleged that when they complained, they were warned that this might affect their promotion. He raised concerns that some women may be being held back deliberately because they had failed to oblige the requests made by males, and this was a challenge to women empowerment within the army. The possibility of active involvement from the Military Ombudsman was highlighted.

The Chairperson noted that the retention strategy of the DOD had indicated that pilots and navy personnel were being recruited by private companies, whilst reports showed that there were inactive pilots in the Army. These conditions were not conducive to having a stable workforce that could be promoted, and he wondered whether this could have been the reason why some people were leaving.

The Chairperson highlighted the time constraints at this stage, and asked Members if they felt the Department should respond immediately.

Ms Mabedla and Ms Dikgale suggested that the responses should be given at a later stage.

Mr Maynier was opposed to this, noting that high-ranked officials had been sent, and he felt that they should respond now.

The Chairperson suggested, as a compromise, that the officials should respond briefly now, but outstanding issues could be detailed at a later stage.

Lieut Gen Masondo replied that the questions had been noted and that he would be brief in his response due to the time constraints. He assured Members that the Department was also concerned about the gender issues raised, and was trying to combat the concerns in a way that would not result in tokenism. He explained the meaning of political transformation, and noted that in the past the Defence Forces comprised part of the apartheid regime’s security structures. It was now recognised that there was a need for civilian oversight, which was why the Defence Secretariat was put in place, and this had assured that the Department was no longer a political structure.

Lieut-Gen Masondo said, in regard to demographic transformation, that the focus was that the Defence Force overall should reflect the demographic composition of the country. There was also a need for sensitivity to ethnic issues, apart from racial issues, so as to ensure a balance in the army.

He then commented on concerns that there were fewer second lieutenants appointed than generals. There were challenges in senior officer appointments and there were limited number of officers who were promoted through to the senior positions. Given that problem, some non-commissioned officers would be put through courses and trained as officers. This was a planned response to the problem.

Lieut-Gen Masondo said that the concerns raised over the recruitment of Asians would be resolved by the removal of a centralised recruitment service.  This would help to employ people with the right profile. He conceded that to date there had been problems with getting minorities to apply, and there had been limited success in trying to increase their recruitment.

In regard to the appointment processes, he said that vacant positions were advertised externally, but theses were mainly civilian posts, whilst the vacancies in the professional forces were advertised internally, and wherever possible, the Department would attempt to fill posts from within. Direct recruitment was difficult because the Army followed a hierarchical process in the hiring and also had to follow the requirements laid down in the Public Service Act.

Lt Gen Masondo raised concern about the Committee’s question concerning discipline. He noted that discipline was the backbone of the Army. Any action that warranted disciplinary action being taken had to be noted and recorded. In some instances, the disciplinary steps did not result in any punishment, but it was important that discipline be taken extremely seriously in the Army.

Lieut-Gen Masondo noted that there were instruments in place for the Mobility Exit Mechanism (MEM) to be implemented by the SANDF. The Department had had situations where people had been allowed to apply for MEM, and some critical skills had been lost. However, in light of the more recent steps by the Minister to improve the conditions of SANDF members, few of them were now opting to leave the defence through MEM.

Maj-Gen Veldtman responded to the questions concerning the retention strategy, and replied that one of the items in the Annual Performance Plan was to publish a retention strategy by April 2012. This would look at not only the military strategy but post skills as well. He noted that the majority of the vacant posts, amounting to about 305, had been filled.

Col Grundling answered the concerns about the position of women. He stated that there had been great progress in the SANDF in the recruitment of women to high positions. There had been a vigorous drive in gender balance and transformation, to the extent that during the August Women’s Day celebrations there was a female parade. He assured the Committee that the Department was equally concerned with the issues of transformation.

The Chairperson requested the Department to provide answers for the remaining questions in the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


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