Transformation and Integration in the South African Navy


05 March 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

Mr Mthetu wanted a breakdown of the compositions of people trained to use the corvettes

5 March 2003

Chairperson: Ms TR Modise

Documents handed out:
Report on Transformation and Integration in the Navy (document is awaited and will be available here shortly)

The Committee was briefed on the process of integration and transformation in the Navy. Figures and graphs were presented on all aspects of transformation, revealing that the Navy is confident that it will reach the targets set. The Committee was generally happy with the progress of the Navy in this regard. Members noted that the age profile of the Navy is healthy and they do not seem to have the same problem as the army, namely that of an aging force. On the effect of HIV/AIDS in the Navy, the Committee heard that the Navy are only allowed to test operationally deployable personnel. Amongst this group the infection rate is at about 2%, which is very low. He does, however, believe that this percentage could be on the increase. They find it problematic that deployable personnel only form a small percentage of the Navy and these figures are by no means a model for the entire Navy.

Briefing by the South African Navy
Admiral Retief conducted the presentation. The submission by the Navy addressed the following issues: the integration process, the rationalisation and restructuring of the Navy, representivity and affirmative action, integration in the SA Navy; human resource development, the Naval Reserve and the promotion of a professional service ethos.

A Member posed the following questions:
-He asked for a breakdown of the composition of people trained to use the corvettes.
-He asked why submarines are not open to women.
-He asked how effective the process of scaling down the numbers of whites and coloureds in the Navy had been, especially with regard to the effectiveness of their exit mechanisms.
-He asked why the Navy regarded centralization as problematic and why the process of institutional memory transfer was taking so long.
-He was interested to hear more about role clarification.
-He was interested to know what the vision and mission of the Navy is.

Admiral Retief stated that the Corvettes are to be delivered to South Africa in six-month intervals. The platforms are built in Germany and the combat systems will be installed in South Africa. The intention is to base all four ships in Simons Town. The first ship was supposed to have arrived in February, but as a result of defective cables, delivery has been delayed by about nine months. This has created budget problems. The ships had been budgeted for in this year and not next year. There will therefore have to be a shifting of funds. The crew that was sent to Germany to fetch the ship also has to be flown back at the expense of the Navy. Essentially, the delay has created some problems for the Navy. Another problem is that they will receive two ships almost at once and at the moment, the Navy does not really have the capacity to do this. One positive point about the delay is that it will give the Navy time to train more people to crew the corvettes.

Admiral Retief said that he did not have figures for the breakdown of the people being trained but that he would supply them with a written report. As to why there are no women in the submarines, he pointed out that the submarines they have at present are too basic to be crewed by both men and women. The new submarines, however, are an entirely different kettle of fish. This issue will be considered when the submarines arrive. As to exit mechanisms, he stated that whites have been the largest group to go. People have left through natural attrition, because of disciplinary problems, through Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs) and through the Employer Initiated Packages (EIPs). In most cases, people have left willingly.

With respect to role clarification, he stated that outsourcing is easy to achieve. However, in the context of a small Defence Force, this becomes financially difficult because of economies of scale. Responding to the question on institutional memory transfer, he agreed that ten years was a long time, but the problem is that there is thirty years of knowledge that must be transferred. At the moment they are about halfway through this process. It must be remembered that MK and APLAa brought with them military and not naval knowledge.

Admiral Retief stated that the principle of the one force concept was introduced during the transformation of the Defence Force. There should not be two separate forces, a permanent force and a reserve force. Rather, there should be one force that works seamlessly. As to centralization, the response was that the administrative problems these create are self-evident.

Mr Ntuli (ANC) was interested in the personnel envisaged for the corvettes and what level of skill technicians working on the corvettes would require.

A Member asked if there is any mechanism to solve the problem of under representation of Africans in the technical musterings.

Another Member asked why South Africa did not have any scientific knowledge when it comes to building ships. On the other hand they were quite advanced when it comes to manufacturing armaments for the army. Essentially, he wanted to know why the Navy is forced to import all its armaments.

Admiral Retief explained that the exact type of technicians the corvettes would require is one of the hardest questions to answer. In the past, there many different rates working on specific areas of the ship. There was, for example, a separate rate for the weapons, an engine room rate, an electricity rate and so on. He estimated that the new ships might only require two rates. At the moment, they are simply going to have an old crew on a new ship. He noted that he was aware that things must change, but exactly how the change would take place had not been figured out yet. He was aware that the change would, however, be important. For example, the Navy has trained artisans who would probably be redundant as a result of the new technology on the ships.

With regard to the training of Africans, he stated that all ships have Africans trained at all levels. The delay in the delivery of the corvettes would mean that they would be able to send a larger number of trained Africans to go and fetch the corvettes. Maintenance; service and transportation are contracted out because these are non-core functions of the Navy.

Responding to the final question, the Admiral stated that South Africa did indeed build her own ships during apartheid. The SAS Drakensberg was the last ship to be built here. Establishing a ship building capacity is, however, expensive and time consuming. If South Africa had a shipbuilding infrastructure the Navy would be able to renew its fleet every thirty years. At present it is, however, easier to purchase ships than maintain ones own production line. Submarines, on the other hand, are not that easy to build and he does not advise South Africa to even attempt building a submarine. He noted that the lifespan of a ship is about thirty years and after that it becomes expensive to maintain. Ships should be replaced every thirty years and weapons systems every fifteen.

Mr Middleton (IFP) wanted to know where units/stations are being closed and what assistance is given to personnel in terms of re-deployment. He also wanted clarity on the issue of role clarification.

Another Member noted that in the submission it was stated that personnel are becoming more expensive and the amount of money being spent on an individual has almost doubled. He wanted to know why, over and above the normal price-increases, personnel had become so expensive. He was also concerned about why the delay in the delivery of ships should have cost implications for the Navy. Surely the corvette manufacturers are contractually bound to cover all costs resulting from the delay?

R Mthetu wanted to know how education and training is made available, especially with regards to women. He asked about the mentorship programme and how effective it was. He also wanted to know more about outstanding disciplinary actions, youth education programs, the L Camps, and whether or not the Navy was on track with the process of integration. A concern was raised over the shortage of black captains.

Admiral Retief responded saying that since the Navy is a small force, members can easily be re-deployed. One problem they do have is that people do not want to relocate. He cited the Asians in Durban as being a group of people who are averse to leaving Durban. However, the Navy, within the Department of Defence, has the capacity to integrate people back into society.

On the issue of role functions, the Navy would primarily continue with activities that are the core function of the Navy, and outsource those that are not. What is outsourced may, however, vary from base to base, depending on what the capacity of each base is to carry out certain functions. With regards to the process of integration, he stated that this is going smoothly. He noted, however that the Navy would not act haphazardly or fast track to achieve an integrated force. The mentorship programme, according to Admiral Retief, was vital for the organization.

He stated that mentorship is not an event, but rather an ongoing process. He emphasized that this is an important tool being used by the Navy to close gaps. On the shortage of black captains, the Admiral stated that integration is happening and although the number of blacks are thin at the level of captains, their solace lies in the fact that at the lower levels, integration has occurred smoothly. They have strategies to deal with these problems. Blacks will slowly move up through the system and will become sea going. Integration is a tricky process and cannot be rushed.

He responded to the question on the increasing personnel costs by stating that the main reason for the increase is that the Navy is spending more and more money on training. Other than this, food, medical and salary expenses have also increased considerably over the past year.

Responding to the question of costs resulting from the delay of the Corvettes, he stated that there are penalty clauses in the contract, but that this money is paid directly to the Treasury. The Navy then has to motivate why it needs the money if it wants to get it back. For now, however, the costs must be borne by the Navy. Women are provided with the same opportunities as men in the Navy. As to the question on the youth foundation, it does not have any white members.

The Chair noted that the age profile of the Navy is healthy and they do not seem to have the same problem as the army, namely that of an aging force. The fact that the age profile of the civilians in the Navy is a bit different should not be a concern because they are not the face of the Navy. She was interested to know about the reserve force. She was concerned that nothing has been mentioned on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Navy. She wanted to know what the implications of this disease had on the Navy, how affected the Navy is by the disease, and what policy the Navy has with regards to combating it.

She was very happy with the Naval Band and stated that it has become an excellent symbol of the integration of cultures in the Navy. The band has adequately captured the change that has taken place in South Africa. She questioned the validity of the EAP targets especially with regard to the large proportion of Asian people in the Navy. The army has a deficiency with respect to set targets while the Navy has an excess. Surely these figures should be able to cancel each other out within the Defence Force as a whole?

She voiced her discontent with members of the Navy who are area bound. She could not see how personnel could expect to be members of the Defence Force without being area mobile. As members of the Defence Force, they have to serve the whole of South Africa, yet those who are area bound are not prepared to move around and are not prepared to know South Africa with its rich variety of peoples and cultures. Finally she wanted to know how the figure of three submarines had been reached. Does South Africa really need three submarines?

With respect to the question of the reserve force, Admiral Retief stated that they are having an indaba very soon. The Navy has a clear vision of what to do with them; could this issue wait until the indaba. He noted that the problem of HIV/AIDS is a complex one for the Navy. They are only allowed to test operationally deployable personnel. Amongst this group the infection rate is at about 2%, which is very low. He does, however, believe that this percentage could be on the increase. The problem is that deployable personnel only form a small percentage of the Navy and these figures are by no means a model for the entire Navy. Therefore, without sufficient information, they could not manage the disease properly and the approach of the Navy is very haphazard right now.

Mobility of members is an issue faced by armies all over the world. The nature of the modern family, where both husband and wife are employed means that this problem has been forced on navies. To deal with this problem, the Navy has moved almost the entire Navy to Simons Town.

On the question of the three submarines, the response was that the Defence Review initially said four. Three is, however, the minimum amount that the Navy could run. If one goes below three, then the center of gravity is insufficient to keep the discipline going. Three submarines collectively require only 93 people to run them. This is a small number and the smaller the group, the more complex the management of people. The larger, the easier it is to manage careers.

The Chair responded that the Committee could not wait for the indaba and would like, in writing, a response from the Navy on the situation in the reserves. She stated that Parliament is passionate about the civic education project. She hoped that women would be included in the crews manning both the submarines and corvettes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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