Reserve Force Council & SANDF Reserves: briefing, with Deputy Minister

Defence

07 November 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Motimele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South Africa Reserve Force Council responded to questions put to it during the 7 September 2018 meeting with the Committee. At the inception of the Council in 2016, the RFC noted that the Defence Review 2015 emphasises the need to arrest the decline in the SANDF. The RFC focuses on the Defence Reserves, whose intake had been reducing over the years. State departments, provincial and local governments with insufficient capacity, facing backlogs, can approach the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) for assistance, at their own cost, without the SANDF taking over their functions. The current red quadrant members are 15 000. They are labelled as over-age, undeployable and mostly of low rank. The current Defence Reserves are 20 000 plus, with an average age of 43, mostly of low rank, with no other skill but military. Their average call-up is ten days, unless they are on a long deployment of six months. The RFC has access to key external stakeholders and most of them, including demobilised freedom fighters and apartheid-era former soldiers, are keen to get involved. The Generals and Admirals, the Reserve Force Council’s key internal stakeholders, are under immense pressure with a salary bill well beyond allowable ratios. The Reserve Force Council has a budget of R 8.3 million, which is insufficient.

The SANDF Chief of Defence Reserves, said that the SANDF Reserves is affected by severe budget constraints resulting in the following:
▪ the lack of a feeder system – the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) is not effective.
▪ an ageing force;
▪ limited leader development;
▪ restricted continuation training and course attendance;
▪ the lack of an effective mechanism to assist reservists in obtaining civilian employment during and after reserve service and;
▪ limitations in deployments on borders.

Reserves must be reskilled in areas such as construction. The Updated Reserve Force Service System will ensure compliance with the Constitution and the Defence Review, overcome difficulties in the current system and the decline will be arrested, if funded.

Members asked about the relationship between the SANDF Reserves and the Reserve Force Council; whether these military structures have ever been in one room together to discuss matters; the practical relevance of the 2015 Defence Review; to what extent the Vaal River Project was impeded by finances; and how much more it can continue if no additional funds were provided.
 

Meeting report

Reserve Force Council follow-up briefing
Maj Gen Keith Mokoape (ret), Chairman, Reserve Force Council (RFC) said the aim of the briefing is to answer questions that were posed by the Members during the Reserve Force Council’s presentation of the 7 September 2018. Members had indicated that they had not interrogated the contents of the presentation sufficiently and needed a further meeting for an in-depth discussion.

The Council was appointed in November 2016 and has 18 members, 8 of whom are women. Three men and one woman have subsequently resigned for health and personal reasons, leaving seven men and seven women. They are serving a five-year term.

At the inception of the Council, the RFC noted that the Defence Review 2015, in Milestone 1, emphasises the need to arrest the decline in the SANDF. The RFC selected for itself the Human Resource component of that decline, in particular, the Defence Reserves, whose intake had been reducing over the years. The Reserves of the South African Defence Force (SADF) used to be a formidable force of up to a million, which declined and almost disappeared in the course of the post-1990 negotiations. The officers commanding those Reserve Units pleaded for the existence of the system, realising what contribution the part-time component of the military can render to national security.

In 2017, the RFC realised that the trickle rate at which the Reserve Force was building up, compromised the statutory requirement of a small permanent force with a sufficiently large Reserve Force. The RFC noted that unless the numbers, that were in excess of the force structure – the so-called red quadrant members – are assisted to migrate seamlessly into other careers, the rejuvenation of the regulars and the reserves will be put under pressure.

State departments, provincial and local governments with insufficient capacity, facing backlogs, can approach the SANDF for assistance, at their own cost, without the SANDF taking over their functions. The current red quadrant members are 15 000. They are labelled as over-age, undeployable and mostly of low rank. The current Defence Reserves are 20 000 plus, with an average age of 43, mostly of low rank, with no other skill but military. Their average call-up is ten days, unless they are on a long deployment of six months.

The RFC is motivating for a structure whose establishment is within the power of the Minister, an auxiliary service agency, to be at the disposal of ailing government departments, provincial governments, and municipalities. An area-based agency, whose existence should not interfere with the primary role of the Defence Force. In the RFC’s view, such assistance defies a tender system, by the nature of the isolated spread, such as rural mud schools, or by unorganised concentration, such as informal settlements, or inadequate maintenance of municipality infrastructure. The nature of the crises in these areas is below the category of ‘disaster’ and can fit in a fit-for-purpose re-skilling of reserves who are not on call-up. The auxiliary service agency, led by professional, experienced military officers, and spread nationally, can also be the ears and eyes on the ground, as it were, paired with national, provincial and local ‘requesters’.

The RFC has access to key external stakeholders and most of them, including demobilised freedom fighters and apartheid-era former soldiers, are keen to get involved. The Generals and Admirals, the RFC’s key internal stakeholders, are under immense pressure with a salary bill well beyond allowable ratios. The Reserve Force Council has a budget of R 8.3 million, which is insufficient. They are about to establish the African Confederation of Reserves Federation to be hand in hand with the African Standby Force. .

If structure works out, the agency may:
▪ Attract regulars who considering scarce and critical skills to be preserved within SANDF may wish to exit.
▪ Go beyond service delivery and revive MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Departments of Energy and Rural Development and Land Reform, and in addition to Military Veterans, motivate that reserves be included in those MoUs.
▪ Attract NARYSEC (National Rural Youth Service Corps) graduates and urge the SANDF Human Resource Acquisition to recruit from that pool.
▪ Enable Operation Phakisa to fast-track all its facets, including the Oceans Economy, to enhance security in small harbours.
▪ Enable intensified recruitment and rejuvenation of reserves in large numbers.
▪ Enable willing military veterans of the liberation struggle, the SADF and TBVC to find a role in service delivery and nation-building and create a model for post-conflict reconstruction and development.

SANDF Reserves role, current status and challenges
Maj Gen Roy Andersen, SANDF Chief: Defence Reserves, relayed the greetings of SANDF Chief Shoke and said that he was closely following the entire process. He added that the reason there were no women in the room was that there was another meeting on-going at that time.

He told the Committee that the role of the Defence Reserves Division was to:
▪ Advise on Reserve policy and monitor its implementation. The Reserves are commanded by the Services.
▪ Augment the Regulars (peace support operations, border safeguarding, support to the people including developmental agenda and proposed key point protection)
▪ Provide a component of core defence capability
▪ Provide expansion capability for major combat operations
▪ Contribute to deterrence capability
▪ Provide certain specialist and scarce skills to the Department of Defence (DOD)
▪ Enhance relationship with DOD and the public and private sectors.

The reserves are not paid when not called up. They are commanded by the four service chiefs. The current system does not serve the Ministry or SANDF members well. The SANDF Reserves is affected by severe budget constraints resulting in the following:
▪ the lack of a feeder system – MSDS not effective.
▪ an ageing force;
▪ limited leader group development;
▪ restricted continuation training and course attendance;
▪ the lack of an effective mechanism to assist reservists in obtaining civilian employment during and after reserve service and;
▪ limitations in deployments on borders.

Reserves must be reskilled in areas such as construction. The Updated Reserve Force Service System will ensure compliance with the Constitution and the Defence Review, overcome difficulties in the current system and that the decline will be arrested, if funded.

After a review of unit names, 67% of the army units asked to be renamed. Current names are leftovers from the British and Afrikaans times of the nation’s history. Of those army units that asked to be renamed, 60% will be given new names that reflect our African heritage.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked what the relationship is between the Defence Reserves and the Reserve Force Council.

Mr D Gamede (ANC) asked if all these military structures have ever been in one room together to discuss all matters.

Maj Gen Andersen responded that they did indeed work together. They meet every month and work collaboratively. The Minister is planning to chair a meeting herself to bring all the structures together.

Mr S Marais (DA) said budget constraints have limited the relevance of some of the programmes; “what is the practical relevance of the 2015 Defence Review?” He added that the Reserves are doing a great job but were facing funding challenges, particularly for training. The Reserve Force age was not sustainable and suggested that instead of the traditional approach of foot patrols for border management, sensors, drones, and cyber interventions could be used. He asked if there were any plans for this.

Mr Gamede said the Military Veterans department was established to deal with military soldier matters particularly veterans. He asked for clarity on the figure ‘47’ on one of the slides that seemed to imply that 47% of respondents had refused to declare their race.

Maj Gen Andersen replied that it was actually one person who had refused to declare his race and he was 47.9 years old.

Ms B Dambuza (ANC) said that if the defence structures could work together, it would solve the matter of budgetary constraints. She asked if the current Reserve Force levels were in line with the projections of the 2015 Defence Review and if they would achieve the 25 000 projected in Milestone 2 of the Defence Review.

Mr S Esau (DA) said there was a role to be played by the Reserve Council in advising the National Defence Council. A unit should be formed to look at all courses studied by soldiers and confer degrees or certificates on them to show that the soldiers had acquired other skills and knowledge useful in industry while conducting their military duties. There are too many military reserves and veterans who are unemployed, and a system should be put in place to assist them set up businesses. Part of the profits from these businesses should then go back to supporting the Reserve Force.

Mr Marais asked to what extent the Vaal River Project was impeded by finances and how can it continue if no additional funds were provided. He asked for clarity about some Reserve Force members having to pay for their training out of their own pocket.

Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kebby Maphatsoe, commented that there was a lot of duplication of roles. When the Reserve Force is not called up or deployed for a year, they are automatically added to the database of the Department of Veteran Affairs. He asked for more clarity on the separate recruitment idea for reserves and for the other defence staff.

Maj Gen Andersen responded that Reserve Force members do not pay for anything out of their own pockets. They were using cyber technology and drones for border management, but when something is found, there is a need for boots on the ground to deal with it. There is no substitute for troops on the ground. The Defence Force is not able to do the River Project without more money. The scale of the project makes this impossible. The Defence Force should not start this project without having all the money necessary to see it through. It would need 450 reserves costing R150 million per year and a security plan to guard the installations.

Reserve Force members are not employees and therefore cannot join unions. That is one of the reasons why some soldiers conducted a protest by marching to Parliament buildings a couple of weeks ago.

They are only protected by the regulations published in 2017. 60-70% of Reserve Force units are in urban areas. The military is reluctant to get involved in townships and conduct operations against their own citizens. This is because they are only trained for one thing and there are consequences in sending them into civilian operations as occurred during apartheid. They are working to move away from centralized purchasing and rather create their own internal value chains through initiatives such as growing and producing food for the army units internally (in the army messes/bases). The need for separate recruitment is to solve the problem of growing resentment. When people train together then some are employed in the SANDF and others are not selected and go to the Reserves, this creates resentment.

Maj Gen Mokoape of the Reserve Force Council pointed out that DoD has “no money” but at the end of the year, it will likely return money to the fiscus due to underspending.

The Chairperson said the Committee’s role was that of oversight and not to manage the Force’s internal administration. He suggested that the generals meet with the Minister and Deputy Minister to iron out matters rather than work in silos. The Committee will not meet them again until they have ironed out matters amongst themselves and have a coordinated plan going forward.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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