The meeting was briefed on the mandate, capacity, challenges and action plans of the Reserve Force Council (RFC) which had been created in 1992 as the part-time force council (PTFC) by officers commanding the reserves of the South African Defence Force (SADF) to represent them during the transition to democracy. In 2002, it had been given statutory status in the Defence Act, and its mandate included being a consultative and advisory body to the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans (MOD & MV). It provided the Committee with a full description of its achievements in recent years.
It acknowledged that the RFC had not been without problems. There had been challenges in implementing initiatives to address the supernumeraries who had fallen on hard times, and the programmes to address the rejuvenation of reserves had been blocked by budgets being used up by undeployable members. As part of motivation for an auxiliary service agency (ASA), it was within the power of the MOD & MV to co-ordinate initiatives to operationalise the ASA, commanded by a retired General/Admiral. Members were informed of the Council’s planned activities for the balance of 2018.
Members expressed concerns that there were many memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with key stakeholders that had lapsed. Further, the issue of informal settlements or houses built for veterans falling apart was an old issue, but somehow had not been included among the Council’s important programmes. They asked why there had been no significant growth in the Force since its inception. Why were all structures of the Defence Department lacking in terms of gender and minority representation. They commented that there appeared to be a duplication of roles within the Department, and this was resulting in a wastage of scarce funds.
Members unanimously agreed that the presentation had been an informative eye opener, but unfortunately there was no time to engage with it meaningfully. There was a need for a full day meeting. The Committee would look for a suitable date to invite the Council.
Co-Chairperson Motimele said this was the first time that the Committee was meeting the South African Reserve Force Council. Normally, not much was heard about the reserve force members. The Committee hoped to gain an idea of what the Council did, and what its mandate was. Because they had not sent the presentation in time for Members and the content adviser to go through it, the Committee would not be able to engage with it very meaningfully.
Co-Chairperson Mlambo added that he had a problem with receiving the presentation late. When Members receive a presentation a day before, there was no justice in it. Why had the Council not forwarded it in time, because surely they knew the presentation was going to be today?
Maj Gen Keith Mokoape (Ret), Chairman: SARFC, explained that the invitation had been received in time, but it had been important for the Defence Staff Council (DSC) to see the presentation first, because of their status in the Force. It had been shown to the DSC on 25 August. After that, it became imperative that the Minister agreed or made comments and amendments before the Council came to the Committee. For the whole day yesterday, up to late in the afternoon, they had been in a meeting with the Minister, and after he had seen it, the Council had felt confident to face the Committee. That was the reason that the presentation was sent only last night. He apologised for the late submission.
The Committee accepted the apology.
SA Reserve Force Council presentation
Maj Gen Mokoape said the Council had been created in 1992 as the Part-Time Force Council (PTFC) by officers commanding the reserves of the SA Defence Force (SADF) to represent them during the transition to democracy. In 1992/3, there were negotiations over the Reserve Force’s future with political parties and the Joint Military Coordinating Council (JMCC). In 1994, the Minister of Defence had introduced demobilised liberation commanders. The Force was given statutory status in the Defence Act of 2002. In 2005, the SANDF had issued a consultation instruction which had culminated in a revised RFC constitution in 2013, which had been approved by the Minister. In 2016 there had been ministerial approval of regulations for the RFC, and the current 18 councilors had been appointed by the Minister for five-year terms.
The mandate of the Council was provided for in Section 48 (4) & (5) of the Defence Act, No 42 of 2002. This included being a consultative and advisory body to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Military Veterans ( MV). The other roles and functions included liaising with relevant national and international organisations on the Force and related matters; assisting with the development and implementation of the Reserve Force voluntary system; advising, consulting and carrying out specific tasks commissioned by the MOD, the Defence Secretary and Chief of the SANDF on reserve force matters. The roles further included promoting the development of the Reserve Force system support structures within civil society, basic and tertiary education institutions, employers and employees; contributing to the decision-making process in the DOD on matters affecting the Force; identifying opportunities for skills, educational and business development for reserves; and actively supporting the SANDF in the recruitment of new and retiring volunteers to serve.
The achievements of the RFC included the Defence Review in 1998 and 2015, the Defence Amendment Act of 2010, and the signing of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the Secretary of Defence and the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC). There had been the introduction of the Disciplinary Bill and the Regulations for the Reserve force, 2017, as well as increased Defence diplomacy and young leader group development. Lastly, the RFC had being co-hosting military skills competitions with the SA army. This was aimed at importing the best practice, procedures and facilities. There had also been motivation for an auxiliary service agency.
The RFC had not been without its challenges. There had been problems with initiatives to address the supernumeraries having fallen on hard ground -- and the problem persists -- and initiatives to address the rejuvenation of reserves had been blocked by budgets consumed by undeployable members. These came from many different sources, including the Service Corps; Defence Works Formation; Koba-Tlala; Young Lions; Sea Cadets; the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC); Siyandisa; and nodal points.
It was within the power of the MOD & MV to co-ordinate applicable initiatives to operationalise an Auxiliary Service Agency (ASA), commanded by a retired General or Admiral. They were also tasked with aligning units with applicable nodal points, and to make members not on call-up or undeployable, available for service in the ASA. This would allow for Reserve Unit member call-ups when so required by the applicable nodal point or unit; the skilling and education of SANDF personnel as arranged with technical and educational institutions; and service delivery by SANDF personnel as contemplated in the Defence Review.
It was the responsibility of Chief Defence Reserves, including the proposed New Reserve Force Service System (NRFSS), based on available budgets, for call-ups and continuation of training and deployment. It would be the responsibility of ASA based on agreements struck with tertiary institutions and professional bodies, for on the job certifiable training based on funds available with the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA), the National Skills Fund, Operation Phakisa and Private Sector Partnerships. The responsibility of the ASA was based on government budget holders, with insufficient capacity to address their mandates; specific areas of backlog and/or members’ choice to produce goods and/or services through small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and cooperatives.
There were various categories of key stakeholders. Public sector partners include the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, with whom there was a lapsed MOU agreement with the DMV; the Department of Energy; the Department of Human Settlements for the upgrading of informal settlements; the Department of Basic Education for the accelerated schools infrastructure development initiative (ASIDI); the Department of Public Works, through Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy); and the Department of Higher Education through SASSETA and the technical and vocational education training (TVET) colleges.
External key stakeholders include state-owned companies like defence-related companies (AMD); universities like the University of Johannesburg and University of the Western Cape, which were both already committed. There was also the Institute of Directors of Southern Africa.
There were three pilot phases. The first phase was for consultations with the Force on the ASA and what it offered. These would be in Port Elizabeth/East London (EC); Fort Ikapa (Cape Town), Kensington (Gauteng), and Lord’s Grounds (KZN). It would also include compiling a database of capabilities and capacity of current reserves, and the utilisation of reserves not on call-up.
The second phase would aim to attract above–age undeployable and retiring members, attract Military Veterans and attract NARYSEC. The third and last phase would include an auxiliary system migration into the National Reserve Force Service System (NRFSS). The ethos of defend, study and produce had become embedded into the doctrine of the reserve force system.
There were several ctions for the remainder of 2018. The RFC seeks to conclude agreements with external stakeholders. It holds consultations and workshops with the MoD and Military Veterans; the Secretary of Defence and Chief of the SANDF; Chiefs of Services & Divisions; and Chief Defence Reserves. The RFC would undertake consultations and workshops, including field studies in unit lines. It would seek to roll this out in the first quarter of 2019.
In terms of its operations, human resources include roles such as advising on, and enhancing, Reserve Force HR policy; Reserve Force skilling and educating, including SME development; and Reserve Force rejuvenation. There was also collateral utility and projects, which included assessment of project capabilities, stakeholder management capabilities, and auxiliary agency and organisation capabilities.
Thirdly, under operations, there was communications and public relations, where it strives to provide effective communication for the RFC and improve relations with Defence and defence-related bodies. Lastly there was international and African regional relations and co-operation. This seeks to create opportunities to enhance force preparation and leadership development through foreign exposure.
Co-Chairperson Motimele thanked Gen Mokoape for his excellent presentation. Members had got the most out of it.
Ms N Dambuza (ANC) said the presentation had indeed been quite good, and it was unfortunate to get such an extensive and interesting report without having looked at it first. With regard to key stakeholders, it was very surprising to find that there were agreements that had been signed, but had lapsed. What was the reason for this? The RFC had touched on the issue of collateral utility and project capacity, and targeted departments had been mentioned, but was there anything that it could do with the Department of Home Affairs and most importantly, with their borders? How strong was the Council marketing itself to these other departments? This was because the issue of informal settlements was not new -- it was an old issue. Houses that had been built but were falling apart was also an old issue, but seemingly the RFC had not been part of the rectification programme as much as it had been in other programmes. There did not seem to have been significant growth since the RFC’s inception. Why was there such a problem? In terms of gender and minority representation, it still had a challenge. What was the strategy to ensure that it closed that gap?
Ms L Dlamini (ANC) stated that each time a delegation from Defence came, it was glaringly obvious that it was a man’s world. This needed to be corrected. How many women were there in the Council? If they were there, why had only one been brought today? Out of the initiatives that the RFC had, if there was war tomorrow, would South Africans know what to do or how to respond? She had gone as a delegate to Singapore with the Committee on Social Services and visited a centre where a teacher teaches community, starting at school level, how to respond as a community if a disaster happens. There was a center there where it was on the maps around the world where their reserves teaches She was a Member of Parliament, but if there was war tomorrow or a disaster, she would not know what to do or where to go or who to call or how to respond. This was because South Africans were not taught as a nation. That in itself was a disaster. The RFC, with all its initiatives, should create community awareness of how to respond. Disasters could be avoided if people knew what to do when there was a disaster.
She was surprised to know that the Council could assist in human settlements. This was because the government was struggling to build houses for military veterans, for a start. They were part of his department, but it had taken years to build their houses. What was the problem? There should be a follow up with the Department of Human Settlements and check what the issue was. It was also saddening to note that the call-up of reserves was declining due to budget limitations. This was something that had to be attended to. She could not understand why those from the liberation movements could only join the association, but could not join the Council.
Mr S Esau (DA) had issues regarding the Council’s position within the Department of Defence. As a public entity that advised the Minister, the RFC was to be consulted with regard to any legislation or administrative measures affecting the Air Force. What had happened with the recent Defence Amendment Bill? If the Council deemed its role was so important, why had it not been submitted that the Chief of the Reserve Force should also be part of military command? When one looked at the RFC and the role that it played, there seemed to be a lot of convolutions. There was the DMV that developed policies, regulations, and also programmes that try to improve the conditions of military veterans. If members left the Defence Force or the reserve, they became military veterans. What had been the relationship over the last few years? This was because the strategy that had been there had been extremely hopeless. What had been the consultative process? This was because members of the Force normally ended up as military veterans. What role did the Council play in ensuring that that the statutes, regulations, and all these things were used effectively to help military veterans? What did the RFC propose to improve the conditions of the veterans? Did this include business skills so that they could become productive citizens and be part of the economy, rather than being unemployed? There had been no report by the Council on the recommendations and things that they had done.
Regarding the members of the reserve force, many of them were employed for only six months of the year, and the rest of the time they did nothing. Others were employed for even less. There seemed to be a lot of bias and prejudice in the system. Whoever was in charge of overseeing different bases decided who would continue to work as a reserve on that base. Had this been properly investigated by the RFC?
There had also been a report by the Defence Service Commission which had come up with a long list of recommendations on conditions of service, and also the morale of our soldiers. However, these issues had not been addressed adequately. Problems were being created. How effective was the Council’s role in regard to advising the Minister? Had any measures been taken to strengthen the effectiveness of this organisation? What was the taskforce of the Council? Another issue was, if we were to call the reserve, how many of those who were in it were capable of fighting? What was their average age? I know the age could go up to 70, but what was the average age? This was because if one needed the reserve force to support soldiers, they needed to be fit. Lastly, what were the Council’s recommendations to rejuvenate the reserve force?
Mr D Gamede (ANC) asked how many members of the reserve force come from the Air Force? This was because the Air Force was behind on transformation. The reserve force members that Committee Members meet every now and then, have a lot to say. There were also parallel things happening between one structure and another in the DOD. He hoped that at some later stage there would be a meeting with the Council to discuss issues openly and freely so that matters could be improved. The Committee’s mandate was to assist the RFC in what it wants to achieve.
Co-Chairperson Mlambo said the presentation had been an eye opener. It had been very informative, and that was why it needed a lot of engagement. There was too much duplication that revolved around the MoD, the DoD and the Board of the RFC. It could not be said that the Reserve Force was a separate structure. In real sense, we were wasting a lot of money because we were doing things in circles. There was no uniformity, and that could prevent the wasteful expenditure that he was seeing. This was because they were not singing out of one hymn book. If these initiatives could be properly coordinated, a lot of money could be saved.
Co-Chairperson Motimele said there was no time to engage with questions and comments. All the questions and concerns that had been raised would have to be handled by the Council at the next meeting.
All Members present agreed.
Co-Chairperson Motimele said the Committee would look for a suitable date to invite the Council. He invited the General to make closing comments.
Maj Gen Mokoape thanked the Members for their concerns and comments. He agreed that they had to come back and interact thoroughly. Perhaps, with all the disjointed institutions, they could be partly to blame. This was because they were consultative. They were advisory. They get the budget from the Minister to gather new knowledge, and to give timely warning when things might go astray. Today they had more than 20 000 in the reserve that has been built up over the last 20 years, but the question was, how many of those could actually fight if a war broke out? If one found only a small fraction of those could fight, the blame would come partly back to the Defence Council. If one looked at what was happening on the ground, the parallel non-state actors seemed to be more organised than they were. How was it that people could collect tyres overnight, collect petrol and stones and be there, with the police not knowing at all that the way was blocked, at 6AM in the morning? That was serious organisation. He said the extent to which there was movement in the small harbours was also a concern. One noticed only the big ships in Durban and Cape Town, but the small ships are not seen, and this was a disaster.
He concluded that this was the Council’s first time coming to Parliament, and they were looking forward to a long relationship with the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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