Transformation in the South African Airforce

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Defence and Military Veterans

07 April 2003
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 April 2003
TRANSFORMATION IN SOUTH AFRICAN AIR FORCE

Chairperson: Ms T Modise

Relevant documents
South African Air Force Vision 2012
South African Air Force Human Resource Transformation

SUMMARY
The South African Air Force briefed the committee on the progress made regarding transformation in the force. The Air Force's mission was to provide a combat ready force, but yet also ensure that it was representative of the South African population. This was a big challenge as new equipment was also required. Maintenance had been delayed because of budgetary restraints and could not be ignored any longer. However it was anticipated that these aims would be achieved despite challenges.

MINUTES
SAAF Vision 2012

Lieutenant-General Beukes, Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), stated that the transformation plan, Vision 2012, was a milestone document. The air force board had met in March 2000 and realised that the SAAF was in dire straits and needed interventions. It was agreed that extra money was not the only thing needed, but that they needed to manage themselves out of the situation. From this meeting, Vision 2012 had been formulated. This plan highlighted that organisation transformation and human resource transformation had to proceed with dynamic strategic leadership at the helm. After two years, results were beginning to be seen.

All airlines in South Africa had a shortage of black personnel. The SAAF was therefore targeted for personnel. In the last few years the SAAF had lost thirteen black pilots and four female pilots as a result of headhunting by other airlines. Since extra money was not available, the SAAF had decided to restructure the budget. Less money would be spent on personnel and contracts and more given for operational costs. Personnel was to be cut from 11 500 to 10 000 over three years ending in 2006. Citing examples of representivity, it was mentioned that there were 1300 females presently in uniform of which twelve were black female pilots. In 1994 there were 27 black officers, today there are 450. In closing, Lt-Gen Beukes said that the SAAF had a long way to go, but that they were committed to the goals as pointed out in Vision 2012. There were major problems but he was positive that these goals could be achieved. There were sixteen commanding officers in the SAAF at the moment in very senior positions in the SAAF.

Please refer to attached Powerpoint presentation for further details.

Human Resource Transformation

General L Ngema continued the presentation on human resource transformation. The SAAF normally planned ten years ahead and therefore the plan was named Vision 2012. One of the problems identified in 2000 was the recruitment of black youngsters for the SAAF. It was agreed that either the problem was that there was nobody available or the recruitment was not being done properly. The Chief of the SAAF had therefore appointed a steering committee to look into this. From this, the foundation training program had been initiated which was aimed at creating capacity for the future. This program took a holistic approach in recruiting and developing youngsters for the force. The SAAF had embarked on an awareness program which was nationwide. Various alterations had also been done to selection processes to draw in more recruits. The maximum age for example was increased from 24 years to 28 years old. Psychometric tests and training of selection board members was also being done. These changes were scientific and there was no lowering of standards. General Ngema ended by saying that one national aviation centre was needed and this was being investigated.

Please refer to attached Powerpoint presentation for further details.

Discussion
Adv. H Schmidt (DA) was concerned that the SAAF seemed to be cutting back on its operational activity. He questioned the combat readiness of the force and also why the number of Oryx helicopters were being cut from 50 to 40. He felt that these were needed especially in Africa.

Lt-Gen Beukes said that it was a concern, but that the 30 new Augusta helicopters would fill this need as they needed something smaller.

General van Zyl added attention was given to combat readiness. Many things were put on hold over the years which were catching up with the air force now. They had therefore decided to go back to basics and concentrate on their primary purpose which was to have combat ready air power. System integrity was to be emphasised. A grant had been received from the American Congress with which they were able to buy new engines for certain of the planes. A decision had been taken that further degradation of equipment had to cease this year. Mobility in Africa was of prime importance and capital spending was focused on this.

Ms D Motubatse (ANC) asked what milestones were aimed for in 2003 and 2004. She questioned the shortage of air traffic controllers. What was being done to address this? How had the specifications for recruits been changed since many of the new recruits might not fit in with the old specifications?

Lt-Gen Beukes said that it was very difficult to give the milestones. Air traffic controllers were a major problem as these were being recruited by overseas companies as well. Incentives have been introduced and since then the exit rate had decreased. Besides remuneration however, other "soft" issues had to be considered to keep staff. Adjustments had been done to specifications. The minimum weight for example for the ejection seat in certain jets had been lowered from 64 kg to 55 kg since many recruits were smaller.

Mr M Fazzie (ANC) asked why pilots were leaving the SAAF for the private sector.

The chief explained that remuneration was one factor, but that other factors also had to be addressed.

Mr Mohlala (ANC) was concerned about the low flying hours that the air force had, He felt that the SAAF was getting new equipment but it seemed as if it did not have the funds to operate it.

The chief replied that the flying hours were very important. When there were not enough flying hours, there was slow growth. This was of great concern to the SAAF and was being addressed.

Mr. G Oosthuizen (ANC) asked about the contracts which personnel had and what obligations were spelt out in these contracts. The chief explained that 167 had come to an end in 2001 and 2002. Many however did not leave. In the past contracts were for eight years. Two years ago, these contracts were changed. Recruits now entered into contracts of fifteen years. This meant that at the end of their contract they were older and more established and it was hoped that they would not leave that easily. They had also made it very expensive for personnel to leave before the contract was up. The results of these contracts would only be seen in ten years time.

Mr. N Mthetwa (ANC) enquired why only black pilots had left the SAAF. The chief said that white pilots had also left the force, but that he had only mentioned the black pilots to illustrate the problem that they were facing.

The chair suggested that the four chiefs in the different sections in the SANDF get together to write a report on transformation. She felt that it was a good idea for the different flying institutions to get together and share knowledge.

The meeting was adjourned.

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