United Nations Arms Trade Treaty & Human Resource Strategy: Department of Defence briefing

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Defence and Military Veterans

11 November 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Defence (DoD) led the Committee through a presentation on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. It was adopted in April 2013 in the United Nations General Assembly, and in September 2013, South Africa’s President signed the Arms Trade Treaty. According to the South African Constitution, ratifying the treaty will need approval from Parliament. The Chairperson said the Committee will support the adoption of the Treaty at the following Committee meeting, because there are not enough Members of Parliament currently present. The Committee supported the DoD.

The Department also provided a status update on the extent to which the DoD has succeeded in ensuring that it has Human Resources (HR) of appropriate quality, quantity, composition and cost, including progress made and challenges experienced since 2009. The DoD’s major challenge was shortage of funds for the HR Budget for FY 2015/16.

One of the key points the Committee discussed was the viability of reducing the strength of SAND, according to the Defence Review. The Committee raised issues on what those costs would be, and how the process would look. The DoD said these were issues it was also working through, but the reality on the ground was that reduction would be very difficult, especially with the commitments South Africa had.

Committee Members raised concerns over the Mobility Exit Mechanism. This had continually been a challenge, and the DoD said its challenge was how to maintain equilibrium of a healthy and cost-effective force, when there were members getting older or having less capability. This issue was to be addressed further in context of the Defence Review.

The problem of HIV and AIDS in the force was also a cause of concern for the Committee. It affected the number of active soldiers. It was also raised that there must not be discrimination. The DoD assured the Committee that there was no discrimination, but these cases were a challenge that must be addressed. 

Meeting report

Briefing on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty
Mr Dumisani Dladla, Chief Director of Strategic Management of the Department of Defence (DoD) took the Committee through the presentation of the briefing on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Context of the Arms Trade Treaty
In April 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). In September 2013, the President signed the ATT. The ATT was a UN legally binding instrument that sets minimum standards for the regulation of international trade in convention arms in order to prevent their diversion to the illicit market.

South Africa and the Treaty
If South Africa ratified the Treaty it will enter into force for South Africa ninety days after. The South African Constitution provided that any international agreement become law when enacted by national legislation, thus this Treaty needed Parliament’s approval. RSA signed the Treaty on approval by Cabinet. Cabinet also approved the ratification of ATT by Parliament.

Key Elements of ATT
The object of the treaty was to establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating; prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion.
The purpose of the treaty was promoting international peace and security; prevent human suffering; promote states’ responsibility, cooperation, transparency. The treaty included provisions for the following: scope of the treaty; general implementation; prohibitions; risks assessment and mitigation; reporting on implementation.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked a question of clarification. The NCAC (National Conventional Arms Control) Act will have to be amended to change the period to ten years, was that correct? When will that amendment be brought to Parliament?

Mr Dladla replied that My Maynier was correct and the ATT called for ten years while the current legislation called for five years.

The Chairperson said if there were no more questions for clarification, the Committee will support the adoption of the Treaty at the next meeting, because there were not enough Members of Parliament present. The Committee supported the DoD.

Status Update on the DoD Human Resource Strategy and Conditions of Service Improvement Since 2009
General Andries de Wit, DoD Chief Human Resources Strategic Director and Policy, took the Committee through the presentation.

The DoD HR Strategic Goal was: “Human Resources of the appropriate quality, quantity, composition and cost, enabling the optimal execution of the DoD’s mandate and missions.”

Priorities for 2014/2015

The following priorities for 2014/15 were listed:
-HR budget and reduction in HR strength.
-New Officers’ dispensation.
-New Officers’ Development Programme.
-New Military Career Model.
-Decentralised HR acquisition capability within each Service.
-Standardised career management system and process across Services.
-Re-skilling & placement for a second career.
-Exit benefits paid within 60 days. 
-New generation integrated HR IT system.
-New approach in training HR functionaries.
-Implementation of Defence Review 2014 to ensure excellent and accountable HR management.    

The DoD was facing a shortage of Rm 880 on its HR Budget for FY 2015/16, based on a planned full time strength of 78,366 members and an annual improvement in conditions of service of 5,6 %

Mr Maynier commented that if the career model as described is implemented, then that is very exciting. He then said what the presentation did not include was discussion on the establishment table by rank. If looking at the establishment table by rank as of the 31 of March 2013, one issue of concern is that it is very top heavy. It looks less like a triangle and more like a mushroom. What will be done to reverse this situation? What proposals are there in terms of the Defence Review? In regards to the 1998 Defence Review, why was the recommended option, which provided for full time component of 22,000 soldiers and part time component of 69,400 soldiers, never implemented? Why would DoD not implement its own policy? Finally, Mr Maynier asked about the Defence Strategic Trajectory. He wanted to clarify. If the Defence Review is implemented, then according to the presentation, during milestone 1, it will require the defence force to downside by 27,958 members over four years. Is that correct, and how does the Department intent to achieve that? What is the estimated cost?

Lieutenant General Norman Yengeni, DoD Chief of Human Resources responded to a comment by the Chairperson on how in terms of improvement of conditions, the Department is only mentioning salaries. This is because that is their domain. He does think there are other areas that there needs to be improvements other than salaries, but that is their focus. 

Lt. General Yengeni then responded to Mr Maynier’s questions. When looking at the top heaviness of ranks of generals and admirals in Department, that may seem too top heavy for South African standards. But if looking at the strength of personnel on the ground, there are currently around 78,000. There are 245 generals out of 78,000. Lt General Yengeni believed that is not very top heavy. He thinks that the issue is a question of salaries that are paid to generals which are totally different than the salaries paid to lower levels. In regards to the issue on why the DoD did not implement its own policy in 1998, he does not understand the question. Is the question referring to members that did not go through the integration? The last question was on reduction in strength, on how the Department will do that and the costs. At this stage, when reducing the strength, there would be a contradiction with the commitments. The government’s commitment for Defence is that they have to be where they are needed. For example, South African troops are deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and the borders also have to be looked at. There are also other commitments, such as disaster relief that are unplanned. If strength is reduced, how will these issues be dealt with? Thus, if they go through the process of reduction, commitments will have to be sacrificed.  

Major General de Wit responded to Mr Maynier’s question on reduction. Although the writers of the Defence Review planned for reduction, the reality on the ground is that it would be very difficult for the Department to go to that reduction. Therefore there will still be debates that unfold as the process is implemented. When looking at reduction, it may be a process that needs bigger government debate, and also interdepartmental transfers to other government partners. Therefore, it might be a combination of subsidy, interdepartmental transfers, and exit models. With exit models, it is too early to speculate the cost. Major General de Wit also wanted to comment the HR cost, there is a new structure and establishment table that restrain rank inflation. That is the driver. There needs to be a sound ratio. The organisational design needs to be applied.

With regards to the 1998 review, Major General de Wit thought that Mr Maynier had a good question, but it must be understood that at the time it was written, it was a time when they did not envision the scale and deployment that South Africa would be involved with today. For example, today South Africa is involved with peace keeping operations. Therefore, he believes that option was totally inappropriate. And, of the 21,000 reserve members, those are mainly people who are unemployed. It is not easy system for South Africa, taking the country’s economic realities into consideration.

Mr S Esau (DA) commented that there needs to be further elaboration on why the sudden reduction. Is it to revitalise? Clearly there needs to be motivations of what is in the system and what needs to be cleared out of the system. The Mobility Exit Mechanism has been an on-going nightmare that this Department has failed to resolve. Mr Esau noted that he thinks it is unacceptable what is currently happening, that critical skills are sacrificed. The Committee needs to look seriously and monitor this. The responses were not sufficient.

Mr Esau also raised the issue of HIV. It is 43 % in the SANDF. Unofficially, it is 40%. This has a huge impact for active soldiers and the number of days soldiers are actually absent from service. The soldiers must not be discriminated against. What are the impacts of that particular area, and how does one go ahead with growing this force? Currently, the Military Skills Development System is what everyone is complaining about, with regards to issues like insufficient people are recruited. The Department complains of budgetary constraints, but the same Department refuses to implement the certain process. The Department cannot have it both ways.   

Mr Maynier asked a question referring to the implementation of Milestone 1. The Defence Review is saying that the defence force needs to downsize its first milestone from 65,000 to 47,000 regular soldiers. The language used is that the regular soldiers are surplus of the needs of the defence force. These members are too old or incapable of doing the job. Mr Maynier then asked, what is the total number of regulars who are surpluses to the needs of the defence of force because of age, incapacity, or whatever factors might apply. It is very clear that Defences is carrying a lot of dead weight, but it is at the top of the apex, not the bottom.

Lt. General Yengeni responded that the issue of reduction must be discussed because there are pros and cons. The reason for that is that since 1994, when there was integration, as much as there was peace in in this country, tranquillity, and relative economic growth, forces trained together, but the result was that after 20 years, it is an old force. Many of those who were integrated during that time are old. How do they maintain equilibrium of a healthy and cost effective force in terms of strengths and numbers? This is something they have to address, and that is why the Defence Review said they have to do the reduction. How much will it cost the government to get those people out, and will it actually save money? These are important questions that they are busy with now.

Dr Thobekile Gamede, Chief of Defence Policy, Strategy and Planning, added that there was a chief and a team established that would look at the implementation of the Defence Review. The issue of members are still under debate. It was only at the concept stage. On MEM, the challenge with it is that before, it was only members who initiated that. The employer should look at the needs of the organisation. It is not a complete refusal, it is more thinking very strategically about it, so that people who are needed are not let go.

Major General de Wit commented that he wanted to ensure the Committee that the Department works very hard in analysing its HR compositions using a computer model. To determine this new exit mechanism, an important determining factor is the cost of the model, and the driver of the numbers needed in HR that is the starting point.

Brigadier General Maxwell Sitshongaye, Director HR Services System, commented on Mobility Exit Mechanism. It had been there for some time. Members were not necessarily selected in a proper way. It was for them to use it as an exit. An issue was that everyone is applying for it. They look for jobs outside and they apply for it and complain. Therefore, criteria need to be discussed. With the new insertion of chief, he wants to amend the process under which people should apply. Also, he wanted to mention that the presentation focused on salaries, but there are other benefits too that were not mentioned.

Brigadier General Sitshongaye also said the issue of HIV and AIDS is a very difficult one. According to the government, a person is not sick if they are HIV positive unless their cell count is more than 500. In that regard, it is difficult for SANDF to assess the basis that members should be terminated. The challenge is how to manage the situation when someone has HIV, especially if their count is smaller than 500.

Mr Esau responded that he raised the issue of AIDS because when it advances through the first, second and third stages, the individual is out of work for 120 days. That is at the expense of the Defence Force. In cases like these, what will the Department do, if a person comes back into service after the third phase and cannot do active service? How does that impact the organisation structure and where people are put?

How does that impact on the whole organisation structure and where people are put? Those are realities that are a serious threat to the force design of the defence. With unemployment, there are a number of countries with unemployment issues. In terms of the motivation for defence reserves, while they do come at a cheaper cost, there is a clear discouragement. The ratio of the regular and reserves should be 1 to 4. But now it looks like the other way around. What is the national trend? Looking at the real situation, with budget constraints, the budget cannot be squeezed out more than it can be. And, the issue of capital intangible budgets has not been dealt with. That is an area that can have huge income revenue.

Dr Gamede responded to the issue of the capital intangible assets. The Department just promulgated a policy to manage it and report on it.

Brigadier General Sitshongaye said when looking at AIDS, there is not discrimination. There is a profile of an individual.  There is a process that deals with the case if a person becomes sick. Those members who are sick go to their hospital, so they are still taken care of. There is no blanket approach. In terms of the reserve force, the other countries are different. The western countries like American and UK, they have different systems of reserves because they are in constant war. The people working in those reserve units are working regularly, in South Africa, there are job seekers, and have jobs that are start and go. They need to develop a system where SANDF can call upon the reserves when needed, and yet are still employed. It is not an easy situation. The system needs to be reviewed, and the Department is in the process of reviewing it.

The Chairperson ended by saying that going forward, the Committee needed to put the question of reduction into context. The Committee was not interested in whether or not it should be reduced. The guiding principle was the constitutional mandate. So, if the mandate was to safeguard the borders, then they may not need 13 companies to do that; they may need more. Therefore, the question of reduction may or may not be relevant for the Committee. That was something the Committee must talk about in the future.

The meeting was adjourned.



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