The Committee received a briefing from the Department of Defence (DOD) on transformation within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Major-General Olga Nodola, Chief Director: Transformation Management, South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said that transformation within the military went beyond gender, race, and disability, but also included transformation of structures, military equipment, training and capabilities, leadership style, behaviour, culture, mindset, and attitudes.
In 2015/16, Africans made up roughly 71% of the military, Whites 11%, Coloureds 10%, and Indians 2%. The number of females in the military had increased since 1994, and there was 30% female representation in the military that year. The SANDF was divided into four divisions: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Military Health Services (MHS). While men dominated all the Senior Management Service (SMS) levels at 87%, African women made up the highest representation amongst the race groups for females at SMS level.
The DOD said that the Military Discipline Bill would empower commanders to enforce discipline. It requested the Committee’s assistance in passing the Bill which would shortly be tabled in Parliament.
In discussion, questions and comments by Members included why the military document was marked secret if the public was present; did DOD have measures in place to employ the best people for the job; requested further transformation detail according to SANDF divisions and a separate briefing on transformation in the Air Force which was a Committee concern; more disciplinary action was needed; requested the figures for sexual harassment in the military; their unhappiness with the facilities that soldiers were living in; queried the health status of soldiers and how many were combat ready; disappointed that there were still much fewer women in senior management positions in the military; what happened to permanently unfit soldiers, it was impressive that transformation was happening; about HIV/AIDS counseling; there was a serious challenge of aged troops; DOD to present on transformation in terms of equality and equity; that the Military Discipline Bill would take time to process.
The Chair closed the meeting to the public for the Committee’s approval of the President’s letter on SANDF deployment.
South African National Defence Force Transformation status
Major-General Olga Nodola, Chief Director: Transformation Management, SANDF, said that transformation of the military went beyond gender, race and disability and that it included transformation of structures, military equipment, training and capabilities to adapt to a changing environment and to ensure a mission ready workforce that was transformed in its leadership style, behaviour, culture, mindset, and attitudes.
Population distribution in the SANDF in the 1994/95 financial year was made of Africans 35%, Whites 42%, Coloureds 13%, and Indians 2%. For the 2015/16 financial year, Africans made up around 71% of the military, Whites were 11%, Coloureds were 10%, and Indians 2%. The number of females in the military had increased since the 1994 statistics. The gender distribution in 2015/16 sat at 30% women and 70% men.
The Defence Force was divided into divisions and services: Army, Air Force, Navy, and Military Health Services (MHS). There were 18 African women at the Senior Management Services (SMS) level, 10 whites, one Indian, and five Coloureds. Gender-wise, men made up 88% of representation at the SMS level and women were 12%. For the South African Air Force, 14% of women were at decision making level while men were 86%. For the SA Navy 14% of women were also at SMS level – decision making level while 86% were men. For the SA MHS women made up 33% of the SMS level positions while men were 67%.
During extended deployment, females faced challenges of sustainment, frequency of postal system that relied on chartered flights to mission areas. Over utilization of available troops had massive social implications and troops did not deploy as cohesive units.
In all operational units, there were separate sleeping quarters for males and females. Only the lecture rooms, dining halls, and sporting facilities were communal facilities. Currently there were 440 (0.6%) people with disabilities, or those who had disclosed their disability. Out of the 440 members, 341 were uniformed members, and 99 were Public Service Act Personnel (PSAP).
The DOD Disability Committee with representatives of all the services and divisions were established to promote, protect, develop, and attain equal opportunities for the people with disabilities (PWDS). The DOD strove to provide suitable accommodation according to the needs of a person’s specific disability. People with disabilities were encouraged to disclose their status, although they were not forced to.
Brigadier General Ndaba said that the wellbeing of soldiers was classified according to ground duties and geographical areas. For instance G1 classification meant that the soldier was fit, and K1 referred to the soldier being deployable in any operational area.
The SANDF broad health status for 2015/16 was at 75% compared to 65% for 2013/14 and 67% for 2014/15.
Major-General Nodola said that the current Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act 16 of 1999 disempowered the Commander to enforce discipline. In terms of sections 11 and 29(6) of the Act, Commanders could not handle minor disciplinary offences if the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge, instead that disciplinary action would be referred to the military court. As a solution to this challenge, the DOD had drafted a Military Discipline Bill (MDB) in order to empower Commanders to enforce discipline as according to the Constitution. Major-General Nodola said that the Bill was drafted three years ago, and she was requesting the Committee to help pass the Bill.
The DOD faced maintenance backlogs on prime mission equipment, equipment obsolescence, limited renewal of landward prime mission equipment leading to high costs of keeping all systems operational, and medical equipment requiring attention. She said that in light of the Defence Review, the DOD would be in a position to address challenges with prime mission equipment.
Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) said that there was no need to mark the presentation as ‘secret’ at the bottom of each page of the presentation when the media was privy to the meeting and had access to the documents.
According to figures in the document, Mr Michalakis asked if only three quarters of South African soldiers were deployable outside of the borders of the country.
Mr S Esau (DA) said that he noted all the figures that were coming through and the measures needed to implement what was required. He asked if DOD would have the measures in place to employ the best people for the job. He said that the Committee would require further divisions than the ones present.
Mr Esau said that once military judges had been employed, they would like to see more action being taken. The Committee did not get the figures for sexual harassment in the military and he would like the figures of those instances.
Mr Esau said that the Committee was unhappy with the buildings and facilities that soldiers were living in, and the Committee was doing their best to inform a turnaround. He said that the health status of soldiers according to the G and K classifications were too high and it was a problem if only the G1 and K1 soldiers were deployable while soldiers classified under other categories were unfit and facing some medical condition. He requested more information from the DOD Human Resource department on how they dealt with transformation.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that she was disappointed that her suspicions were correct that since 1994 there were still much fewer women in senior management positions in the military. She asked why there was a low number of women representation at SMS level in the military. She asked what happened to the permanently unfit soldiers, and whether they retired or not.
Mr T Motlashuping (ANC) said that there was political will in the department to have a better Defence Force and restructure, and that there were challenges that needed to be addressed. He said that it was important that women assume positions of responsibility but there needed to be the capacity for officials handling the job well since it was related to the security of the country.
Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that the DOD did not just employ soldiers; they needed to ensure that soldiers were combat ready.
Mr M Booi (ANC) said that he saw a lot of progress with the DOD since 1994, and although it was slow, progress was there. The DOD was coming from an environment where there were some men who felt that they were the sole backbone of the Defence Force, and it was impressive that transformation was happening.
The Chairperson said that the broad health status was not very clear. He asked if the Committee could be given a detailed response in writing.
Lieutenant General Norman Yengeni, Chief HR, DOD said that all documents of the Defence Force were classified according to: secret, restricted, confidential and top secret. The information being presented was classified as secret, meaning that it was available to anyone.
Mr Michalakis interjected to say that he was not asking why the documents were secret. He was asking why the Committee was not informed that it would be secret because the media was in attendance and had received access to the documents already and information would be published.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that they try to employ the best candidates and train them to reach the best level of competence within the Defence Force. The next time the DOD would be asked to present, they would provide figures according to divisions so that information could be easily understood by the Committee.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that the Military Discipline Bill would be an issue as long as the constitutional dispensation grants rights to all members of society including soldiers yet they are expected to follow orders according to the chain of command.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that their facilities and also discipline had deteriorated over time and the DOD was doing its level best to regain control of the situation and reprimand unlawful soldiers.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that while the DOD understood why they were facing budget cuts to make monies available for more pressing matters like the current #FeesMustFall movement, the Committee needed to understand that there would be constraints on the Department and they would not be able to meet all their targets.
With regard to gender transformation, Lt Gen Yengeni said that the DOD promoted people because of their competence skills and not because they were women, Black, Coloured, or Indian. Looking at the evolution of the Defence Force, the DOD was dominated by whites during apartheid, and after 1994 when the Defence Force need to be transformed, most of the whites who did not want to conform left the service and pursued careers in different fields.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that he was not legally qualified to answer why the Military Discipline Bill was taking so long to be tabled but it was with the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser and would thereafter be served to Parliament.
Major General Nodola said that there were 40 to 50 troops that had returned from deployment areas and in her field they ensured that each and every soldier understood the implications of committing sexual offences, and that all soldiers who had committed sexual offences had been disciplined and thereafter exited.
Mr Esau asked when the HIV/AIDS affected individuals had disclosed their status, if they were advised and educated on preventing the spread of the virus to the community.
Mr Esau said there was a serious challenge of aged troops and if it was not addressed it would become an issue.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said that for future presentations he would like the DOD to present on transformation in terms of equality and equity.
Mr Booi said that the Military Discipline Bill was an ongoing process and would be going on for a while.
Mr Gamede said that the Committee was concerned about transformation in the air force and he requested that the DOD give a separate presentation on transformation in the air force at future briefings.
Lt Gen Yengeni replied that DOD did not discuss the health status of soldiers because this information was confidential.
Lt Gen Yengeni said that the DOD was in discussion with National Treasury about the exit strategy for soldiers who were exited or discharged after military service.
The Chairperson thanked the DOD for their presentation and dismissed them.
President’s letter on SANDF deployment
The Chairperson asked the public and the media to leave the room while the Committee deliberated on the letter from the President.
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