Transformation and Integration in the South African Army


04 March 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

Portfolio Committee on Defence:

4 March 2003

Ms TR Modise (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Army presentation on Transformation and Integration in the South African Army (document will be available here shortly)

Related documents:
"SA army 'needs more white troepies'", Star Article, 5 March 2003

The South African Army briefed the Committee on transformation in the army. The problem which they face is reducing the size of the army from 75 000 troops to 33 900 troops. There is also the problem of the lack of an approved force design. It is not clear how big the army or the Defence Force should be. The Committee queried why they had not been informed about the transitional number of 33 900 troops. The Committee was informed that effective mechanisms are needed to get people out of the system. Natural attrition is very slow and voluntary severance packages are attractive to only a view. There are fast-tracking programmes in place to cut down on numbers and achieve full integration but Members questioned whether there are not alternatives to fast-tracking.

Chief Lieutenant-General Ramano summarised the presentation, highlighting the major problems facing the army at present. Their primary problem is reducing the size of the army from 75 000 troops to 33 900 troops. What are needed are effective mechanisms to get people out of the system. Natural attrition is very slow and voluntary severance packages are attractive to only a view. Present methods are therefore inadequate.

There was also the problem of the lack of an approved force design. It is not clear how big the army or indeed the defence force should be.

There is then the issue of surpluses. Too many whites occupying the middle management posts while at the same time, too many blacks occupying the lower entry-level positions. For example, they cannot simply get rid of, or indeed promote, the 49 White colonels and the existing mechanism is not at all attractive. Until something is done about this, the process of pushing people upward through the system cannot begin. The issue of racial quotas, is however, a difficult one to solve. The generally better educated whites are not content with lower level positions while attracting Indians into the army is difficult simply because Indians traditionally prefer to join the Navy and the Medical Corps.

A Member asked why whites are in the majority at management level, what will happen to those students who fail fast-tracking courses and finally, what happens to those members who successfully complete the course.

General Mashwala stated that with regard to the prevalence of whites in middle management, the answer is simply a historical one and goes back to the pre-integration situation where most of the officers, if not all of them, were white. With the absence of an effective exit mechanism, it is impossible to chase such people away. With people who have qualified, the unfortunate situation is that a person cannot occupy the post he has qualified for unless there is a vacancy. This is clearly a big problem and should be solved through the fast-tracking process.

Adv Schmidt (DP) asked who had made the decision that the design of the army must consist of 33 900 troops.
-By when would the whole staffing process of the army be completed?
-He was concerned about when and how many bases would be closed down.
-He stated that the defence force is not unique and that many private companies face similar challenges posed by the process of downsizing. There are established labour law practices on retrenching someone and the fairness of retrenchment packages can be established in a court of law. He suggested that it would not be impossible for the army to come up with similar packages.

With regards to the question of finalisation of staffing, the General stated that in June the Department of Defence must produce its audits. In the case of the South African Army, they are busy auditing the work that they have completed so far before forwarding it to the Department task team.

In response to the question about when units are closing down, General Ramano stated that units will be closed down only after consideration of budget constraints and they will only be closed if it is necessary to fall within such budget constraints.

As to the question over force design, the General stated that the process of transformation has been going on for some time and this is guided by the transformation committee. The last target figure was 24 900 and this is not reasonable. Too many people will have to be retrenched without a suitable exit mechanism and they asked for a transitional force design of 33 900 troops.

Mr Dlali (ANC) was interested in the concept of fast-tracking. He asked for details about the shadowing programme and the mentorship programme. He wanted clarity on this concept of fast-tracking.
-He wanted to know about the rank appeals and what the situation was in this regard.
-He referred to a statement made by the General that they select only competent blacks for fast-tracking. This seemed to suggest that most of the blacks in the SANDF.
-He asked why transformation had not been considered when making the budget.

A Member noted that there are other options that should be considered, apart from fast-tracking. SANDF members could, for example, take up positions in the SAPS and the Correctional Services. He also noted that this process of laying off members would indeed be painful and that the question of severance packages must be seriously considered.

In response to the questions about fast-tracking, General Mashwana acknowledged that there are various problems which are being experienced by the SANDF at present. The fast-tracking programmes are in place to cut down on numbers and achieve full integration but there are other hurdles in their way. One of the main ones being the fact that an officer has to occupy a position for at least three years before moving up a rank. The result of this is a bottleneck: there are qualified people to move up the ranks, but there are no vacancies in these higher ranks to fill.

As to the question of how exactly persons are identified for fast-tracking, they are singled out and informed that they have been identified for fast-tracking. With regards to competency, he does not consider most of the army to be incompetent, rather that some people are more capable of being fast-tracked than others.

The Chairperson was concerned that the transitional design force figure of 33 900 troops had not been brought to the attention of the Committee. Why had the Committee not been informed of this?
-She questioned why no funds had been set aside for transformation, since they had been talking about if for years. She said that she expected the army, because of its size and role, to experience the most problems with regard to transformation and integration. In the light of this, the army's report to the Committee was a pity, especially with respect to rank review.

In response, General Mashwala stated that the transitional arrangement of 33 900 troops was a necessity. When they requested this transitional arrangement, the army was occupied with Richmond and problems in the Eastern Cape and extra troops were needed.

General Ramano stated that they have undergone a rank review process and that the results were sent to the Chief of the National Defence Force. They have deliberately left it out of their submission because it is out of their hands.

Finally, he stated that the budget is personnel intensive and that the bulk of the budget is being consumed by personnel. The result is that there is very little money left for the operational side of things.

Ms Xingwana (ANC) then noted that they had not once mentioned women in their submission. What was happening with regards to gender transformation?
-She also asked if the transformation process took into account the new role that the army is expected to play outside the country. She was concerned whether it was wise to close down units, given the army's increased role in Africa.
-She asked whether or not the increased responsibilities of the army had been budgeted for.

General Mashwala stated that, whatever the army does, the gender issue is always on their minds and such problems are always considered. He also stated that much has taken place with regards to gender integration. For example, in the old dispensation, women would only occupy administrative positions, but today they can be found everywhere. Gender issues are an ongoing concern in the navy and are considered constantly.

As to the question of closing down units and the challenges facing Africa, he said that the closure of units is part of a process.

A Member was concerned over the question of shadowing and wanted to know how personnel are selected for this process. How for example does one identify potential in an individual without prejudicing others?

He also asked what happened to those students who failed and whether or not they get a second chance. How are students selected to go abroad? The same concerns were raised over the Leadership Command Programme. He was interested to know how many people attended, who presented the courses and what their credentials were.

General Mashwala explained that potential candidates for fast-tracking are identified in every formation. Those people identified have to undergo a screening process where they have to answer questionnaires and go through physical tests. Once these have successfully completed the screening process, the potential candidates are selected for fast-tracking.

With regards to students abroad, he stated that the EAP is a determining factor in the selection process. Funding also determines how many people are sent and where. They do not, for example, accept offers to send students abroad if they cannot afford the cost.

In response to the question on leadership camps, he stated that in the hope of developing their members, they had sent people to leadership camps throughout the world. The idea is to institutionalise the leadership camp concept in the South African Army. The selection process for these leadership camps is an equitable one and they have had tremendous success with these camps.

Mr Middleton (IFP) raised a few questions.
-He noted that he had come across many coloured personnel who were disgruntled over the issue of staffing and placement and the fact that there was no communication between them and management.
-He asked what progress had been made with the transfer of personnel to the SAPS and Correctional Services.
-He asked what criteria they used when awarding medals.
-Why were more members not transferred to the SAPS or Correctional Services as part of the fast-tracking process.

General Mashwala noted that they had placement problems, especially amongst coloured recruits in the Western Cape, but noted that it is not healthy to have a force that is area bound. Members of the army should be mobile, especially if more situations like that in Burundi are to arise. Members of the army must also realize that it is not good to remain in one place for long, indeed one area may have far less opportunities for moving up the ranks as another. If a member wishes to be promoted and indeed have a fulfilling career in the army, he must be prepared to be mobile. There are, however, situations where a person is unable to move around due to personal reasons. In such cases exceptions are made. Generally, the army encourages people to move around.

The General explained that, in order to qualify for a medal, a member must complete a citation form. Some members are unable to do this adequately and the result is that they miss out on medals that they should have received.

Finally, he stated that there is difficulty in transferring members to the SAPS and Correctional Services. The SAPS and Correctional Services only want young and healthy people who are qualified. They do not want the people who the SANDF are trying to get rid of.

Mr Ntuli (ANC) then stated that if one looks at the army as it is now, it would seem that there is no definite plan as far as fast-tracking goes. One has this process of fast-tracking, but then one has regulations, which seem to make such processes redundant. He also wanted to know about personnel from the army who went to study abroad, who they were and how they were selected.

General Ramano did not respond directly to this question other than to note that this was indeed a problem with the fast-tracking process. He stated that if the Committee had any unanswered questions, they were welcome to visit the bases at any time. He emphasised that their task today was not to give statistics on every aspect of the army. Many people were abroad and they could not cover every possible question in their submission. With regards to the gender issue, he stated that he is satisfied that progress that has been.

The Chair noted that this was the first time that they have had a comprehensive briefing from the army. She noted with disappointment that the issue of gender was not even considered. This had been discussed before and she therefore expected it to be mentioned in the report.

She stated that the process of integration is not in itself a bad thing and that all the different armies being integrated had very different experiences, both working in different environments. They could therefore learn from each other. MK, for example, produced excellent women combatants in all army disciplines. The army could use both the influence of formal and informal training to create a truly indigenous South African Army.

The Chairperson noted that the army runs the military academy and it is up to the army to do something about the young minds that go into that program. There are still issues that must be dealt with; how can the training given to regular forces be integrated with the training given to reserve forces? The SA Army has a limited capacity and when it comes to negotiating with other countries in respect of sending people abroad, they must be careful not to over deploy. They should therefore determine exactly how many troops are capable of sending abroad. This will solve the problem of over deployment.

There is also then the issue of rank review and the issue of base closures. Base closures are a very serious issue and require long-term planning. They must, for example, guard against closing a base now and crying over this decision in the future. In this regard, she stated that she does not want Dukuduku closed. This very issue would be on the agenda when they meet with Public Works. She noted that there should have been a budget set aside for integration from the beginning.

After the meeting the following day on transformation in the navy, the Committee hoped to bring out a comprehensive report.

The meeting was adjourned.

This article was originally published on page 5 of
The Star on 05 March 2003

SA army 'needs more white troepies'

By Jacques Keet

The South African army is experiencing severe problems in attracting white citizens to join up at troepie level, army chief Lieutenant-General Gilbert Ramano says.

Briefing the national assembly's defence committee on Tuesday, he said that, among other things, white South Africans were generally well educated and more likely to opt for civilian employment rather than army pay as privates.

"We need help with this," he said.

Senior army officers accompanying Ramano said only one percent of privates in the army in 1996 were white, and the situation had not changed.

Currently, 92 percent of privates were black, six percent coloured and only two percent white. At the same time, there was a surplus of white officers in more senior ranks.

Overall, the army had long ago achieved the required racial quota for representivity.

The challenge for the army was to focus simultaneously on enhancing black representation and rectifying the present skewed rank and age pyramids.

However, much progress had been made. For example, 31 percent of the current colonels were black, as opposed to 13 percent in 1998. During the same time, lieutenant-colonels had increased from 11 percent to 33 percent, majors from 27 percent to 38 percent, captains from 35 percent to 41 percent, and lieutenants from 39 percent to 57 percent.

There were similar trends in the non-commissioned officer ranks.

Until an "exit mechanism" became available for the upward mobility of the available pool of blacks, the present imbalances would remain.

"Programmes of fast-tracking and empowerment are being followed to assist in rectifying this problem in the shortest time possible," Ramano added.

Another serious problem was the high average age of most fighting troops, the presenters said.

Of the 13 764 privates in the army, only 734 were aged 18 to 22. Altogether 5 571 were 23 to 29, 6 409 aged 30 to 40, and 726 over 40 years old.

The defence department's new human resource strategy 2010 was addressing the problem.

"It addresses the age problem of our troops, career options, and proposed solutions to keep our fighting troops young and fit."

The backlog of blacks on army courses had also received attention, with extra courses being presented and fast-tracking to accommodate them.

But the concept of fast-tracking could not be implemented as intended because the rule regarding a minimum period of three years in a specific rank was still applied, the committee was told. - Sapa

This article was originally published on page 5 of
The Star on 05 March 2003


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