SA National Defence Force on transformation progress, challenges, plans

Defence

28 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr E Mlambo (ANC) and Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African National Defence Force briefed the Committee on transformation in the Force (SANDF). It was noted that mechanisms that facilitated transformation included transformational leadership at all levels, empowerment programmes, implementation of mentoring and coaching programmes and monitoring of programmes designed to enhance representivity. The Department had set up a Disability Committee which sought to address representation of people with disabilities in the military. Figures were presented for each rank, breaking down the numbers and percentages into representation by African, White, Coloured and Indian members. The total strength of the SANDF members was 66 252, with 49 449 (75%)  men and 16 753 (25%) women. Out of the 16 753 women, 6 373 (19%) were in combat service and 10 380 (31%) in the support service. It was noted that women were seriously under-represented at Senior Management Staff (SMS) level, and there was also under-representation of Africans at Colonel level, and in fact although there were significantly more Africans than Whites at Military Skills Development System (MSDS) level and private ranks, this trend was reversed the higher up in the ranks. Women in the Combat Corps were still at only 19%. The disability representation was also well below the expected 2%, at only 0.6%. The Department of Defence had developed Career Management and Development of People with Disabilities programmes for the disabled members, who included uniformed members injured on duty. There was a concerted effort to focus on disability mainstreaming, including sensitisation and awareness programmes and events targeted at people with disabilities, reasonable accommodation that includes accessibility of facilities, access to information and catering for the visual-and hearing impaired as well as physically disabled. The issue of sexual harassment had been included in Transformation Management Policy and presented throughout units of the SANDF. There was also now a focus on increasing women at decision-making level-though mentoring, coaching and leadership training and training for Instructors Course on gender issues.

Members wanted more information on the SANDF Educational Trust, and wanted to know what was being done to ensure that the Trust did not become vulnerable to conflict of interests, especially if companies in the defence industry started to make donations to the Trust. They wanted to know whether the Department could define transformation, and asked whether, in essence, it meant demographic representivity. One Member commented that instead of merely being presented with statistics of racial identities, he would have like to hear more about integration, transfer and retention of strategic skills. The issue of transformation was not about replacing Whites with Africans but ensuring that there is integration and patriotism of people who are serving in the Defence Force. The SANDF responded that this presentation was created to answer the specific questions that it was told must be addressed in the presentation. One Member commented that the downside of transformation is the fact that Whites, Coloureds and Indians often feel disadvantaged by transformation and had no interest in joining the Defence Force as the scope was seen as limited, and asked how the SANDF would address this perception and "the downside of transformation", and whether there were quotas per rank. The question was asked whether the extension of the retirement age to 65 years was an indication that transformation and retention in the SANDF had in fact failed, if people were not passing on skills or moving through the system, and asked how the SANDF would address the issue of succession planning and moving people through the system. Some Members indicated their belief that more had to be done, but one pointed out that a strong positive was the number of combatant women. 

Meeting report

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Transformation: Progress, challenges, plans
Major-General Olga Nodola, Chief Director: Transformation Management, South African Defence Force, indicated that the Defence Review of 2014 stated that South Africa’s military capability must be commensurate with South Africa’s international status, strategic posture and continental leadership role. Therefore, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF or the Force) should strive to be seen as a representative, equitable and gender aligned national asset. SANDF members should be skilled, healthy, fit and highly disciplined professionals with a high level of morale and sense of duty. The transformation strategy would seek to build human capital through transformation empowerment programmes, national and international events, especially those focusing on gender and disability mainstreaming. The strategy also planned to ensure a rejuvenation of the SANDF through youth development. The transformation of the military would go beyond gender, race and disability representation as it further included the transformation of structures, military equipment, training and capabilities to adapt to a changing environment. The strategy of transformation would ensure a mission ready workforce that would be transformed in its leadership style, culture, mind-sets, attitudes and behaviour.

The strategy of transformation also involved constant evaluation of the military’s policies, procedures and processes with regard to the current and future situation, in order to ensure continuous improvement in the way of doing business. The mechanisms that facilitated transformation included transformational leadership at all levels, empowerment programmes, implementation of mentoring and coaching programmes and monitoring of programmes designed to enhance representivity.

She noted that the Department of Defence (DoD or the Department) had a Disability Committee which was addressing representation of people with disabilities in the military. She outlined the demographic breakdown. In the military, there were 2 479 Major-Generals in total, of whom 1 306 (53%) are Africans, 811 (33%) are Whites, 305 (12%) are Coloureds and 57 (12%) are Indians. The total Force strength was currently is 66 252, with 49 449 (75%) men and 16 753 (25%) women. Out of the 16 753 women, 6 373 (19%) are in combat service and 10 380 (31%) in the support service. There was  a total of 232 Brigadier Generals, (male and female) and 153 (66%) are Africans, 58 (25%) are Whites, 17 (7%) are Coloureds and 3 (2%) are Indians. Out of the total of 232, only 40 (17%) are women.

She added that there were 4 106 Lieutenant-Captain and there are 2 828 (69%) Africans, 613 (15%) Whites, 580 (14%) Coloureds and 85 (2%) Indians. Out of the total of 4 106, 1 691 are women. There is a total of 32 557 Corporal (Cpl) to Staff Sergeant (SSgt), broken down into 25 026 (77%) Africans,  3  003 (9%) Whites, 4 169 (13%) are Coloureds and 359 (1%) are Indians. Out of the total of 32 557, only 7 743 (24%) are women.

There are 896 Colonels being 454 (51%) Africans, 369 (41%) Whites and 59 (6%) are Coloureds and 20 (2%) are Indians. Out of 896, there are 170 (19%) women. There is a total of 2 234 Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) and there are 1 003, 968 (43%) Whites, 222 (10%) Coloureds and 41 (2%) are Indians. Out of the total of 2 234, there are 528 (24%) women. 18 122 were at the rank of Pte/Amn/Sea and there are 16 071 Africans, 361 (2%) Whites, 1 598 (8.5%) Coloureds and 92 (0.5%) are Indians. In the 3 927 Military Skills Development System (MSDS) ranks, there were 3 340 Africans, 140 (4%) Whites, 391 (8.5%) Coloureds and 56 (1%)  Indians. In terms of deployment statistics, the total number of external deployment  was 3 057 and Africans comprised 2 703 (88%), Whites are 87 (3%), 260 (8.5%) are Coloureds and 7 (0.5%) are Indians. The total number of internal deployments was at 4 700 and there are 4 190 (89%) Africans, 66 (1%) Whites, whilst 441 (9%) are Coloureds and 3 (1%) are Indians.

Major-General Nodola highlighted that women representivity at Senior Management Staff (SMS) level is significantly under-represented. At Colonel level, Africans are still under-represented, and whites over-represented. Whites at MSDS level are significantly under-represented, and women in the Combat Corps were still at 19%. It was disappointing that people with disability were still under-represented in the Defence Force, at 0.6%. The Department had developed Career Management and Development of People with Disabilities (PwDs), including for those uniformed members injured on duty. There was a concerted effort to focus on disability mainstreaming including sensitisation and awareness programmes and events targeted at people with disabilities, reasonable accommodation that includes accessibility of facilities, access to information to the visual-and hearing impaired. There was still an opportunity to investigate possibility of establishing a sheltered workshop for people with disabilities.

The gender imbalances in terms of external engagements (foreign learning opportunities and placements) and under-representation of Defence Attaches were still apparent. The transformation action plans focused on gender mainstreaming included integration of gender equality considerations in all Human Resource practices and Military Courses. Gender Equity focused on the fair and just distribution of all the means of opportunities and resources between women and men. Internal and external deployment prioritised on Gender Advisors being trained and utilised. The Defence Force had to ensure that there was zero tolerance to gender-based violence. The issue of sexual harassment was included in Transformation Management Policy, and was presented throughout units of the SANDF. There was now a focus on increasing women at decision-making level, through mentoring, coaching and leadership training, and training for the Instructors Course on gender issues. The Department had a social responsibility to South African youth, to better their lives through various programmes, and these included the National Youth Service, in conjunction with rural development, Youth Leadership Seminars, Military Skill Development, internships and SANDF Educational Trust.

She concluded that there was a need to focus on hosting leadership dialogues for Officers Commanding, Senior Officers, Senior Officials, and Regimental Sergeant-Majors, as well as having strategic leadership programmes for women. Diversity management was critically important in sensitising all SANDF members on stereotypes, assumptions, prejudice, discrimination and harassment. Diversity awareness programmes were conducted at all units and during the pre-deployment phase. Units were encouraged to use National Heritage Day to promote diversity and cultural awareness.

Discussion
Mr E Mlambo (ANC) wanted more information on the SANDF Educational Trust, saying that this sounded like an interesting initiative.

Major-General Roy Andersen, Chief of Defence Reserves, SANDF, responded that the Educational Trust was meant for the children of the deceased and severely injured soldiers. The Trust had both the Defence Force and private sector trustees and the administration was done by Nedbank, with auditors or monitors drawn from KPMG. The Trust had awarded 92 bursaries in the two years of operation to the dependants of both regular and reserve force. The source of funding was all from the private sector and the main sources were Orland Pirates Football Club with R1.5 million, Kaizer Chiefs, the South African Army Foundation (SAAF) and Transnet, who contributed R1 million each, and the rest came from other scholar donations. The Trust had raised about R5.5 million and the challenge was that the current spending on bursaries was about R850 000 a year, but it was impossible to allow the capital to cover for that expenditure, as the Fund would eventually run dry. The Trust had developed a Capital Fund, and the Trust would be able to live off the interest income. The Trust would be raising more funds later this year. It was essential as it prioritised education and the disbursing of bursaries.

Mr D Maynier (DA) wanted to know whether the Department could define transformation. He wondered if in essence it meant demographic representivity. He wanted to know the quotas that were to be used per rank group. He asked what criteria would be used to determine whether the Defence Force had been transformed. The Minister of Defence made a statement in the Budget Vote that the retirement age in the Defence Force was to be extended to 65 years, and the Secretary of Defence confirmed that the reason for this extension was to retain strategic skills. He asked whether this was in fact an indication that transformation in the Defence Force had in fact failed, if transformation was not achieved and retention or transfer of scarce skills had not happened. Finally, he noted the apparent "madness" that out of the total of 18 122 Pte/Amn/Sea, there were 16 071 Africans, 361 (2%) Whites, 1 598 (8.5%) Coloureds and 92 (0.5%) are Indians. This alone seemed to be an indication that the Defence Force was in fact untransformed.

The Chairperson interjected and asked Mr Maynier to retract from using the word “madness” in the Committee meeting.

Mr Maynier apologised and withdrew the word “madness”. He commended the idea of the  SANDF Educational Trust but wanted to ensure that the Trust did not become vulnerable to conflict of interests, especially where companies in the defence industry might start to make donations to the Trust. A similar Trust had been set up in the Military Veterans area, which also faced a significant risk of conflict of interest.

Mr B Bongo (ANC) stated that he personally supported the extension of the retirement age from 60 years to 65 years, as this would address the issue of transfer and retention of strategic skills. It would be important to get more information on how the Defence Review could assist in transformation action plans. The ANC was more focused on building a non-racial and non-sexist and democratic and prosperous society, and any presentation made to this Committee should be able to speak to those issues. He expressed disappointment that the presentation seemed to focus on racial identities and figures of transformation, instead of focusing on integration, transfer and retention of strategic skills. The issue of transformation was not about replacing Whites with Africans, but ensuring that there was integration and patriotism of all people who were serving in the Defence Force.

Mr Bongo said that it was of concern that the number of Whites in the Defence Force had dwindled, and he suggested that there should be a concerted effort to reintegrate them back to the Defence Force. He commended the kind of patriotism and dedication that Mr Maynier showed, with connections with strategic people in the Department, saying that and this level of patriotism is crucial for transformation. He stressed that the Department needed to come up with a clear Human Resource (HR) strategy which must be aligned to the ANC’s vision of promoting transformation through integration.   

Mr S Esau (DA) mentioned that the issue of transformation fundamentally addressed the issue of redress and promoting the historically disadvantaged to try to reach an equal playing field for everyone. The downside of transformation was the fact that Whites, Coloureds and Indians often felt disadvantaged by transformation and thus had no interest in joining the Defence Force as they believed that scope for them was limited, and he wanted to know what strategy was in place to manage this negative perception.

Mr Esau noted the figure of 16 753 (25%) representation of women, with 19% of women in combat and 31% in support services, adding to 50% of the women. He asked for more detail on the rest. He commented that the promotion policy was often stunted, in terms of where people moved within the ranks, up or out of the system. He thought it did not make sense not to implement and cost the promotion policy, as it was impossible to rejuvenate the SANDF with new blood and talent unless there were people also moving out of the system, without being unfair and unjust to anybody. There should be a political will in the DoD to look at the costs that were attached to people moving up or out of the system. This issue had not been addressed in the Defence Review, Milestone 1 trajectory, nor in the current allocated budget. The assumption was made that Milestone 1 could be achieved with minimal cost to the Defence Force. However, this was totally untrue because 22 000 of the Reserves must be employed in part of Milestone 1, and there must be a serious reduction in the current 81 000 troops in the country. The issue of disability, in terms of equity issues, should not only be limited to the members of the Defence Force. He enquired the disability rate in the Defence Force, as the government’s target was 2% representation within all sectors. He wanted to know whether the Public Service Act Personnel (PSAP) members of the Defence Force were included in the target of 2% representation of people with disabilities. There were many qualified and competent soldiers who had been severely injured and could be able to take other posts and still serve in the Defence Force. It was not helpful for the SANDF to keep the disability rate very low in order to accommodate the soldiers who were likely to be injured in the future, and an exit mechanism should be applied in this eventuality.

He requested the Department to provide a table setting out all the statistics on transformation so that  a comparison and analysis could be done. The statistics on transformation failed to indicate the actual targets on transformation to enable Members to determine whether a certain unit was over or under-represented.

Mr T Motlashuping (ANC) said it was of paramount importance to transform the SANDF. The Committee must not be apologetic about the issues. This was all part of creating a non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society. He was impressed by the level of transformation in the Defence Force. There had been no female Combatants before 1994 and the fact that these figures had risen to 19.4% was a positive. Members should look at the positive, and not only focus on the failures. He also wanted more information on the SANDF Educational Trust and whether it was meant for the unfortunate incident that happened in the Central African Republic (CAR) or whether it was accommodating everybody in the Defence Force. He asked what specific criteria were used for awarding the bursaries to the children of the deceased soldiers, and what percentage of people had been covered in the Trust.

Mr D Gamede (ANC) indicated that the trend showed a high number of Africans at the lower ranks, particularly in the MSDS and Pte/Amn/Sea ranks, but this number was dwindling further along in the upper ranks. He noted that government policy would aim at having 50% representation of women in the Defence Force and the 2% representation of people with disabilities. The integration of people with disabilities in the Defence Force was critically important in the capitalising the skills of those who had been severely injured, and creating opportunities for them. He requested accurate figures on persons with disabilities employed in the Defence Force, and he suggested that there should be a presentation about people with disabilities in the Defence Force, perhaps inviting the disabled people  working in the Defence Force to present also to the Department. He commended the establishment of the SANDF Educational Trust. It was indeed unfortunate that the Department had to wait for the incident in CAR before forming a Trust; it should have been in operation prior to this, as there were other soldiers injured or killed prior to this. to form a Trust as it was supposed to be there before as other soldiers had been injured before.

Mr Esau wanted to get more clarification on the impact on women if the periods of deployment were extended.

Major-General Nodola responded that the outline of the presentation was based on the guideline that had been provided by the Committee, and said that the Department could not have addressed the specific requirement to show progress on transformation without showing the statistics, challenges and action plans. The demographic targets of transformation showed that there should be 64% Africans, 24% Whites, 10% Coloureds and 0.75%  Indians, in line with the policy of government. The question on the extension of the retirement age to 65 years should be directed to the Minister, who could provide more details on the pros and cons of such decision. The issue of transformation was a work in progress. She noted that the Department was not only dealing with gender issues but also had to consider other dimensions like policies, resources and structures. The number of Whites in the SANDF had indeed declined, being now at 40% while Africans were at 85%. The SANDF was revising its recruitment strategy in order to attract all the racial groups in the country, especially those who were currently under-represented. She highlighted that everyone is encouraged to join the Defence Force, but it would have to go the extra mile in attracting other under-represented racial groups.

She also added that the Department always encouraged people with disabilities to apply for the advertised posts in the SANDF, especially in the PSAP. The posts often took into consideration  different disabilities, including those with visible and invisible disabilities. The Defence Force was dependent on the Department of Public Works (DPW) for renovation of facilities to accommodate disabled people, but there was also a not-for-profit organisation (NPO) in the Defence Force which would assist people with disabilities, especially in their work and home environment. The organisation was dependent on the money that the Department was able to raise in the Casual Day, and there was no other incoming donation.     

Major-General Andersen agreed that the question on the conflict of interest in the Educational Trust was very important. This was why the Department ensured that the administration was outsourced to Nedbank, and why it had appointed KPMG as monitors. There were two external trustees at the moment, and another would be appointed, in order to maintain the independence of the Trust. The issue lay often in the appointment of the external trustees, but the Trust had not received any large donations from the industry to date. The Trust was meant for the dependants of members of the SANDF who had died or were severely injured post 1994, and there was a very generous means-test to determine who could qualify for the Trust. The trustees were willing to spend the money, and the default position was that it was necessary to prove a legitimate claim in order to be awarded the bursary. The statistics on the number of beneficiaries were still difficult to determine at the moment.   

Brig-General Tembelani Xundu, Director of Defence Planning, SANDF, responded that the issue of transformation did consider both race and gender, and the presentation reflected on the achievements of the Department in transforming the Defence Force. As already noted, the Department would try to revise its recruitment strategy in order to attract more Whites into the Defence Force. Opportunities were given to everyone to join the Defence Force, and it was not the sole responsibility of the Department to encourage whites to join the Defence Force; politicians and civil society also needed to play their role. He did not agree that the under-representation of Whites, Coloureds and Indians was a downside of transformation, but conceded that the promotion and exit policy should assist to rejuvenate the Defence Force. The promotion and exit policies were not the constraint factors in the Defence Force. He admitted that the issues of budget for the exit mechanism should be made more lucrative, encouraging people to exit to allow rejuvenation. There would be a social cost on the year-long deployment of the SANDF, and this would require more sustained funding. People would be moving in and out of the deployment theatre - they might have funerals to attend back home or have personal issues, and this was being discussed with the United Nations (UN), the Chief of the SANDF as well as the Minister, to try to achieve a more simplified system.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and tendered the apology of the Committee on the late start of the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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