Setai Commission Findings & Recommendations: ministerial briefing


03 October 2000
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Meeting report


3 October 2000

Relevant documents:
Setai Commission Interim Report: Findings and Recommendations (see Appendix 1)

Chairperson: Mr J N M Mashimbye

The Minister briefed the committee on the findings of the Setai Commission on the current dismal state of affairs in the SANDF. He also highlighted some of the recommendations that the Commission had made to address the problem areas. He did point out to the committee that it is only an interim report and if it is lacking on certain issues these would be addressed in the final report at the end of the year. It was evident from the findings of the Commission that racism is the underlying cause of the problems in the SANDF. Minister Lekota stated that the need exists for a total restructuring of the SANDF, as the old structures dating from the Apartheid era still seem to be in place. However the Minister did state that all is not lost in the defence force as measures are being put in place to rectify the situation.

Setai Commission findings and recommendations
The Minister of Defence, Patrick Lekota, gave the committee a briefing on the findings and recommendations of the Setai Commission. The Minister emphasised that most of the problems stem from racism in the SANDF. The SANDF is going through a transitional period and some of the problems identified by the Commission were to be expected. However the gravity and intensity of the problems are a point of concern. He did emphasise that all is not lost in the SANDF. If the problems are dealt with in an appropriate manner, he feels that progress would be made. Minister Lekota then proceeded to address the issues that were raised by the Commission and also the recommendations made by them to deal with these issues. [For detail, see the attached Findings and Recommendations of the Setai Commission Report.]

Minister Lekota stated that ideally when the armies were integrated a new structure should have been adopted. The old SADF structure should have been demobilised piece by piece and a new structure put in place. However in practice they could not do this. What happened is that members of other forces were absorbed into the old SADF. The Minister felt that due to this happening, the top structures of the SANDF are for the most part the same. He emphasised that everything in the defence force such as uniforms and symbols, is the same. Even the defence force numbers of the old SADF. Members have stayed the same whereas members of the other forces were given new numbers. This meant that higher ranked old SADF members could readily identify their former army buddies. The Minister concluded his briefing by stating that he would like the committee to go through the report in detail, in order to enlighten themselves on the problems identified.

The Chair added that the actual report is a reflection of the society that we belong to. The Committee had reviewed the issue and seen that policy needs to be changed in the SANDF. He emphasised that people need to be put in place to handle these challenges.

Mr Smit (NNP) stated that in the report it is stated that one of the Minister's objectives is to have a smaller force, is this true. More importantly he wanted to know why the Commission had not picked up the problems at Phalaborwa when they were there just a
few days before the shooting. He also asked when the final report would be available.

The Minister stated that they are trying to cut down on numbers in the force so as to be more efficient. He stated that the reason why the Commission had not picked up on the problems at Phalaborwa was because the base commander had given them false information on what was really happening at the base. When members were asked if they have any problems, they were forced to answer that there were none. If they had not done so, they would have been punished later on. The true situation only came to light after the shooting incident. He noted that the final report would be available by the end of the year.

General Viljoen commented that the Minister has painted a very bleak picture of the SANDF and it would appear that South Africa does not have a defence force that is battle ready. He believed that the integration process was approached in the wrong way. There should not have been full integration, rather integration should have been done on a pilot project basis to test its viability. The General stated that he cannot understand why there are problems between blacks and whites when in the past he had first hand experience of them working together in the UNITA conflict. Consequently the General suggested that the defence should go back to homogeneous units as well as mixed units. He felt that the attitudes of members are too different.

A member of the ANC stated that one of the problems of the report is that it places too much emphasis on the symptomatic problems of racism. He felt that the report does not tell us where these problems stem from and why we have allowed it to go on for so long. No specifics are given.

The Minister replied that in the old South Africa, foreign blacks were treated with respect but South African blacks were treated like dirt. He added that it was not surprising for him to see a foreign black commander in charge of the base at Phalaborwa. The Minister said that they must not be quick to condemn the findings of the Commission - they must be patient with them. He added that some of what General Viljoen had said makes sense. However he did disagree with the General on the point of battle readiness. The Minister stated that there is a huge appreciation of the capacity of the SANDF. A large amount of favourable feedback was received after a recent airforce show. The Minister stated that the majority of the members would be ready should they be called up. He stated that there are elements in the SANDF that are working against what they are trying to achieve.

The meeting was adjourned for the day.

Appendix 1:

1.1 The SANDF is in the process of reengineering in order to achieve a new Force Design. Its objective is to have a smaller, efficient and representative Defence Force. However,currently the SANDF is somewhere between where it was in 1993/4 and the vision of where it should be at the end of the transformation. But there is apparently no clear-cut single integrated plan to get there.

1..2 Many structures, systems and processes have been, and are being put into place. But administrative procedures by themselves are not supporting a definite and ordered plan of action and this only leads to frustration.

1.3 There are a number of constraints hampering the above processes, namely the restrictions and or lengthy processes, in respect of people who should be leaving the organization. These restrictions should be eliminated as soon as possible.

The guidelines for the staffing process approved by the Defence Council are included in a document called Plan and Guidelines for Staffing the Military Component of the Transformed Department of Defence. (DS/502/8) While this document covers all the concerns that must be taken into account in the staffing process it is not necessarily strong on some critical ones. For example, on representivity, it states that 'representivity must be borne in mind". This statement does not make it imperative to implement representivity. The result is that staffing of the management echelon is not representative especially at the operational levels. The management at these levels is predominantly white. This suggests that not only is representivity ignored, but also prescripts developed by the Department of Public Service and Administration on fairness, equity and equal opportunities are not applied.

The Committee will make proposals on identified process gaps in the final report.

1 .4 There does not seem to be a co-ordinated integrated plan for transfers within the public service as a whole. The police are under strength while the Army is over strength with thousands of supernumeraries on its payroll and it spends most of its time assisting the police.

The part of the plan dealing with human resources needs special attention. In short, to meet the gender and race representivity affirmative action target figures (which need to be revised) there must be exit schemes for the outflow of those not anymore required, and entry schemes to obtain the staff and personnel needed.

1.5 Finance is perhaps the biggest constraint. The usual annual budget is intended for the normal capital, maintenance and running of the force year after year, and acknowledged formulae and norms apply. However usual annual and normal on the one hand, and change and transformation on the other hand, are contradicting terms and concepts. But we wish to note that transformation and affirmative action create abnormal and special conditions for a certain time period (until the goals are attained) which require funding that cannot be satisfied through the normal budget without cutting on things such as, for example essential housing and ablution facilities, or whatever, causing stresses for the people in the organization.

-Support should be mustered for the idea that the SANDF should be Allocated funds additional to its normal budget, specifically to Finance transformation including affirmative action.

-There are many reports of donor funds being used elsewhere in the Public service for the financing of transformation-related activities.
We recommended that the same avenues should be explored to facilitate transformation in the Defence Force.

2.1 Racism does exist in the Defence Force. It manifests itself in many ways. It comes in the form of outright abusive language based on cultural origin, failure to empower people and active attempts to reduce their job responsibilities. Harassment such as instituting disciplinary actions against black members and going through with the process or leaving it in abeyance, thus living a member in limbo for an indefinite period. Subjecting members to assaults and intimidating them to ensure that they do not report the cases to the police. Excluding troops from the life and activities of the unit by not letting them participate in decision processes.

By seemingly acting in an indifferent and disinterested manner where grievances of the black troops are concerned. And most important, by condemning black members and not giving them a second chance even on minor infractions. By not giving black members the benefit of a doubt and always saying that they are 'taking a chance' when they try to explain their predicaments. By abusing rank and using it as a mask to give orders that are not fully understood or are regarded as irregular by a member. Highlighting small infractions and making them look big.

2.2 Most OCs are of the opinion that grievances come from people whom are either supernumerary or unstaffed. The Committee does not support this position. In general members were concerned about their career incidences, whether they were staffed or not. Staffed people were all in one complaining about merits, abusive language, discrimination, assaults, courses, promotion, transport, attendance to funerals of colleagues and family, job assignments, use of Afrikaans, medals, poor accommodation, AWOL, Court Marshals, force numbers that identify people by previous forces and thus exposing them to undue prejudice and many others. It is unfortunate that some OCs have identified members who come to see the Committee as troublemakers.

One OC when he received us, said 'I know that you will be seeing people on a voluntary basis. But I can tell you now which troublemakers will be coming to see you. He started to enumerate them and he stopped at fourteen. He then gave us a list of such people.

We noted the list and checked it carefully as people came to see us. We spend four days at that base and none of the enumerated troublemakers except three came to see us. We are elaborating on this point because there is a prevalent view that people who came to see the Committee are troublemakers. The Committee does not hold this view. In fact the Committee would be inclined to believe that the quality of most of the people who appeared before it is quite high.

2.3 Military culture is in a crisis because there has not been exercises to build the much-talked about one army concept. The top-down approach is in place but looses credibility at times due to perceived lack of commitment to some orders. The Ministerial Committee has received submissions alleging that military police were instructed at some units, not to arrest whites when found infringing the law. In some places, soldiers on guard duty are instructed not to search cars driven by whites. Discriminatory practices within the DoD will undermine discipline. Consequently, since discriminatory practises are pervasive in the DoD one can conclude that the DoD is responsible for lack of discipline.

Members from ex-Mk and ex-APLA point out that as much as they are soldiers, they came from culture where they were allowed to articulate their views within a democratic setting. They could hear and be heard. They say this is not the case in the SANDF. It is important to remedy this problem.

2.4 There are no sufficiently established monitoring Systems on discrimination.
Wrongs are dealt with without reprimand. The Committee has an example of fraud at one unit where the supervisor drew monies in the name of the troops. These were eleven and the money amounted to about R940 each. After the Committee intervened, the officer was made to pay the money back but was not charged for fraud. 2.5 Recommendation
The Ministerial Committee is in the process of addressing this problem and will make recommendations in the final report.

3.1 The problem of transport to 1 Military Hospital is big due to a complexity of problems. In the first place, it is the quality of transport made available. Secondly the allowance which is in most cases higher for whites, thirdly, problems of leave to accompany a sick family member, fourthly accommodation when a member or his family gets to I Military, fifthly, the problems families not familiar with Pretoria encounter when they get there. The other problem, it would seem, is that the Defence Force recognises opinions of doctors working within their own structures and not others.

3.2 Recommendation
As an interim measure pending recommendations by the Committee in its final report, the Minister should instruct the SAMHS to designate doctors in the areas where there are no military hospitals to treat the members and their families.

4.1 Evidence heard by the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry, points to a perception that trials before court martial or military judges is that of 'white' judges sentencing 'black' accused to a discharge from the SANDF, regardless of the type of offence.

4.2. Recommendation
The Ministerial Commission of Inquiry recommends that the Minister
Direct the Chief of Military Legal Services or Adjutant-General to facilitate that the appointment of black attorneys and advocates as members of the Citizen Force/Reserve in order to serve as military judges on a part-time basis.

5.1 Members are discontinues from the Defence Force by the Medical Boards. However administrative justice is lacking in that the ex-member should be informed by the Board of the discharge recommendation and be invited to appeal. This does not happen and there is a long delay between the Medical Board decision and the discharge approval by the Surgeon General

The perception is that these medical discharges on psychological grounds are used by the 'white' SAMHS officers to discharge 'dissident' blacks. Unlike medical discharges for reason of physical unfitness, psychological discharges are difficult to measure or prove.

5.2 Recommendation
The Ministerial Committee recommends that all members of the SANDF who are classified as medically unfit on psychological grounds, be advised of this recommendation by the Medical Board and that they be afforded an opportunity to appeal to the SG.

Further the Ministerial Committee recommends that the Minister also approves such discharges after recommendation of the Surgeon General and the Chief of the Armed Forces.

6.1 Many members find themselves in a frustrating situation in that they are unable to complete the course requirements because 'they do not get accepted in courses for which they have been nominated. In the meantime, they become desperate as the age restrictions constrain their chances. The criteria for officers training is that the applicant must have a Std. 10, be single and be 26 years of age or less. Some members claim that they have applied long before they reached this age, but were not accepted or their applications acknowledged. After they exceed this age, acknowledgements come quickly rejecting then on the grounds of age. There is a prevalent view that the age restriction could be relaxed as a once off measure to admit those who are fit and qualify to officer courses.

6.2 Recommendation
It is recommended that as a once off measure, people who have reached the age restriction but are fit and qualify, should be admitted in the officer courses at the Gymnasium.

7.1 The closing of basis and the transfer of people have caused a lot of hardships to the members. Many have been transferred far away from their families and detachments have been discontinued. Others now have to travel long distances to their places of work. Duty busses have been discontinued. The result is that 'these hardships contribute towards more AWOLs. Out of the practicality of the situation. Some Ocs have authorized "illegally" the use of duty busses. As the members experience these hardships. The military rules and regulations are not flexible to accommodate the changing environment.

Many find themselves in housing that is worse than before. These quarters are often overpopulated with totally inadequate ablution facilities. Non-public funds in some cases, such as Regimental Funds, are now being used to improve housing facilities. This causes a lot of stress between troops and management The housing situation at Ellisras is scandalous. About 170 soldiers live in a disused airforce hanger in the open and with no partitions. The toilet and shower facilities are limited. In many facilities, people find it difficult to study at night or get a good night's sleep due to the state of the bungalows. People living in such poor facilities wonder why they should pay rent equivalent to that paid by their counter parts that live in better facilities.

The DoD recognizes 'that it has a membership whose age profile is changing. The average age is well above 25. Most of the members are married and have families. SAMHS has also indicated that the disease profile is also changing reflecting that of older people. The Committee was informed that this is not a desirable situation to have older people particularly in infantry. Ln the meantime, there are no clear policies to address this problem. The question to be answered is, does the DoD want to keep older people or not?

7.2 Recommendation
-The DoD should recognize that it has a membership with a changing age profile in the medium term and change its policies, mindset and systems to accommodate them.

-To alleviate the situation, detachment should be re-instituted to allow members to settle their family problems.

-Duty buses should be reintroduced, albeit, as an interim measure.

-Housing should be improved without having to use non-public funds such as Regimental Funds.

-The issue of food supplies to the people in the Kruger National Park should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

People have little opportunity to articulate their problems. They are not given chance to express themselves. They reported that when they inquire about any issue affecting their well being, they are told that they are politicking and politics belongs to parliament. That is where they must go. Similarly, when they raise questions about issues having to do with duty schedules, they are told, in some cases, that they should refer their questions to parliament.

Just about every where, there are troops who complain that they were once told that they had to be promoted but nothing has happened. It would seem that very often, the formation would inform the units that a certain category of members has been promoted. A list bearing their names would then be read to the members. However, a step that is often skipped is to inform members that they must write letters of acceptance. Since this is not done, the affected members remain in the same rank. Their pleas to have such a situation redressed are not acted upon.

9.2 Recommendation
It is recommended that an audit of such cases be done so as to redress the situation.


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