Project Phoenix and Phasing out of Commandos: progress report

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Defence and Military Veterans

18 November 2003
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


18 November 2003

Acting Chairperson:
Mr D Dlali (ANC)

Documents handed out:
SA Army Progress Report on Project Phoenix (awaited)
Progress Report on Project Phoenix: Corporate/Policy Issues
Officers Training Corps: Chain of Command(awaited)
Reserve Force Council Progress Report on Project Phoenix
Air Force Reserve (AFR) Progress Report on Project Phoenix
Proposed design of the future SA Naval Reserves
Military Legal Services Reserve Force Component Report
Military Health Service: Update on Project Phoenix
Military Health Service: preliminary proposal on requirement for and structuring of a tertiary education based reserve officers' training
Joint Support Division Progress Report on Project Phoenix
Report on Reduction in support to the SAPS

Project Phoenix, which is the resurrection of the reservist system, was considered in detail in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Military Health and Police environments. The proposed phasing out of the support by the SA National Defence Force to the SA Police Service in their policing actions was described. The proposed disbanding of the Commandos raised concerns that rural safety and security would be jeopardised. The Reserve Force Council representative voiced serious concerns about the policy, strategy and implementation of Project Phoenix. The Committee concluded that not much progress had been made since the Gordon's Bay workshop in May 2003.

The Chair apologised for the absence of the Chairperson, Ms T Modise, due to other commitments and invited the leader of the delegation to proceed.

Progress reports from SA National Defence Force units
Vice-Admiral Martyn Trainor (Chief of Corporate Staff SANDF) apologised for the non-attendance of General Matanzima and stated that the meeting was a follow-up to the work-session that was conducted at Gordon's Bay on 30/31 May 2003. He noted the recent appointments were Major-Gen Roy Andersen as Chief of Defence Reserves and Maj-Gen Keith Mokoape as Chief Director Army Reserves.

He reported that steady, non-spectacular progress had been made since May 2003 aiming at a small number of reserves as a first line of defence, as well as a larger number, less well-trained, as a second line, consisting of ordinary citizens from the community. War often comes without warning and spending could escalate hugely. In the Second World War the S A Defence budget grew from R 4 million at the start to R 200 million at the end of the war. Shortage of money has a breaking effect.

Major-General Roy Andersen (Chief of Defence Reserves) had been in office for only 18 days. He reported that a major hurdle was the fact that not enough money was available, so prioritisation was required. It was heartening that the mechanised and parachute brigades were chosen, as well as basic training. The commando system was a "hot potato, but should be sorted out in six years time."

Vice-Admiral J Retief (Chief of Navy) maintained that the Navy had limited responsibility. They wanted the Navy to be fully inclusive. The Navy had a commitment to RDP. Reserves had to add to the Navy's efficiency, economy and effectiveness and be administered as an integral part of the Navy. The administration of the previous reserve system was a traumatic thing, but with modern technology like cell-phones it could be much easier. Service in the Reserves would be voluntary, but there would have to be a commitment. The Military Skills Development (MSD) system, run at Saldanha, included nation-building and skills development components. They were using volunteer organisations around the country.

He continued that the Navy envisaged three classes of reserves called Quarter-deck, Main-top and Forecastle. There needed to be a Dormant Naval Reserve whence reserves could be moved into the Reserve. Volunteers could be seasonal workers. Problems in the current Naval Reserve were that it was extremely exclusive because of the limited number of reserve units, it was historically mainly White, weekly parades were required, they were solely administrative, and the cost of maintaining facilities in ports.
Implementation plans had not yet been approved by the Navy Board.

Adv H Schmidt (D A) asked how many reserve bases were going to exist.

Vice-Adm Retief answered that there would be no reserve bases, but that there would be reserve posts. The number of posts would increase substantially to 1 600, with up to 6 names per post.

Mr A Blaas (ACDP) expressed his concern about the insecurity due to relying on 25% of staff consisting of volunteers.

Vice-Adm Retief replied that there would always be a 100% staff complement which would be augmented by an additional 25% reservists when required, mainly for development and to gain experience. The Navy was, however, approximately 20% under strength. Under NEPAD there were 75 people from Africa being trained per year, from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Namibia. It was cost-effective to send them to sea concurrently with the NSD training. "Holes" left by navy personnel serving in other countries were filled by volunteers. The cost of maintaining the facilities for reserves, which were due to be returned to the State, was in the region of 7 to 8 million rands per year, with negligible return. The closing down of the seven units would be done only upon authority of the Minister of Defence.

Rear Admiral (Junior Grade) Ernst Penzhorn (Director of SA Navy Reserves) stated the vision for the Navy Reserve, the approved SANR structure: Levels 2 to 4, the present location of SA Navy Reserve Units and future planning. There had been an eight-year void with no input into the reserves. The Unit Associations represented a strong emotional aspect, with trophies and get-togethers into which a lot of voluntary work and dedication had gone. A centralised Reserve Management Centre was going to be introduced to build esprit de corps, under the control of the Director of Fleet Human Resources in Simonstown. Eventually direct management and administration would be created in lieu of the current seven geographic units. It was imperative that the uncertainty be ended and the new dispensation be implemented speedily after approval by the Navy Board, perhaps by 2005, which coincides with the centenary of SAS Unitie in Cape Town.

Brigadier-General Neville Greyling (Director Air Force Reserves) delivered a progress report announcing new appointments Brig-Gen S D Mathe as chairperson and Brig Gen R Salojee as member of the Air Force Reserve Council, the new Directorate AFR had been established, and there had been recruiting of air crew, especially of colour.

Brigadier-General Krynauw Celliers, Director SA Military Health Services (SAMHS), delivered an update on progress in specialised training and ROTS (reserve officers' training scheme) initially as a pilot scheme in Gauteng.for recruiting medical students in their third year of training. The response from students at Wits and Pretoria had been very positive.

Mr N Middleton (IFP) enquired about the relaxation of entry requirements for the Air Force.

Brig Gen Greyling explained that the 500 hours of flying time had been reduced to 200 hours, after which a recruit had to be co-piloted for a further 300 hours to make up the 500 hours

Maj Gen Roy Anderson pointed out that there were problems with recruiting suitable candidates.
They were looking for young people who were fit. He was meeting the next day with the National Defence Liaison Council and was going to try getting business and labour to come into a partnership with Defence i.e. for business to recognise the value of the 12 days a year training by the Defence Force of their employees. He noted Chairperson Modise had previously pointed out that the call-up system for the reserves was not employment.

Adv Schmidt, while admitting that, similar to medical staff, highly trained and skilled people were imperative for the Air Force, expressed his disappointment that they had made very little progress towards arriving at a satisfactory racial make-up.

Brig Gen Celliers stressed that they were trying to attain a better race and gender distribution. At the time 65% in the reserve force were black, predominantly in the lower ranks. They were trying to selectively recruit blacks and women, and it was encouraging that at Wits and Pretoria 70% of medical students were black and 50% were females. Specifically for combatting AIDS, two female doctors have been recruited. Because there were only 6 specialists, a tele-medicine project would be launched to make their expertise available both inside and outside the borders, for example, from January 2004 in Burundi.

Adv Schmidt enquired whether the Air Force was doing something similar to SAMHS to speed up the attaining of a correct representivity figure.

Brig Gen Greyling replied that they had gone to SAA and got one black pilot, and one white female pilot from a pilot school. Support people was no problem, but technically-trained black people were simply not available. Pilots were not allowed to fly for commercial airlines at over 60 years of age, whereas in the air force reserve they could fly up to 65 years.

Brigadier-General Dennis Jellyman, Director Reserves in Command Management and Information Systems (CMIS) ,was standing in for Gen Matanzima and took the meeting through a number of slides covering the background and progress in providing the required logistical and other support. In the Command and Management Information Reserve Force, which was 60% representative, there were 10% black women, and no budget constraints. He could announce that he was now part and parcel of the strategic executive committees of the CMIS. There was a training exercise during November 2002, and the next one would be on 5, 6,and 7 December 2003. Military police requirements and progress were indicated, with some budget restraints.

Rear Admiral Dunstan-Swart (Chief of Military Legal Services) introduced statistics on personnel in the Reserve Force component of Military Legal Services which indicated that transformation of race had been fully achieved, but not of gender.

Phasing out of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) support to SA Police Service
Vice-Admiral Trainor introduced the topic of the phasing out of the SANDF support for the SAPS which would require that the Police expand and allow the Defece Force to operate outside the borders. It was to be a phased withdrawal, and would entail closure of the Commandos. He noted that he was a member of the top co-ordinating committee.

Deputy National Commissioner of Police Andre Pruis gave a brief overview of the crime hot-spots in the country such Johannesburg and Pretoria. They were trying to achieve "normalisation" of both their internal activities as well as the crime situation, which was to a large extent due to social causes. So-called violent contact crimes, and not so much property crimes, gave the negative image to South Africa. They were developing cluster departments with their databases.

- An exhaustive list of all the types of crime that the Police were fighting was given and recent successes highlighted. Case backlogs in courts and overcrowding of prisons, some more than 200% full, were major problem areas.
- The SANDF support functions for the SAPS were border, public order, crime combating and rural safety. Ongoing support was needed for air, ship and medical services, and should be budgeted for by the SANDF.
- For their internal normalisation the SAPS required more specialised detective units, 5 000 more vehicles, closed circuit TV, intelligence driven policing, SAPS recruiting and more training facilities.
- In the revised reservist system there would still be scope for the commandos.
- On a national level reservists would be deployed as one specialised National Intervention Unit as well as a National Crime Combating Unit for the country, but stationed at four centres.
- Further use for reservists would be in Area Crime Combating Units, and members of the commandos could play a role there.
- Sector policing in smaller areas would be introduced, and by 2006 there would be 34 000 sector policing members with whom the commando members could co-operate.
- Training of reservists would be task specific i.e. for a specific function only, such as securing crime scenes.
- The aim was to have 1 500 reservists called up per day, which was very cost-effective.
- Reservists would fall under the control of the permanent SAPS structures.
- Reservists would be accommodated right through the operational range of the SAPS.
- Borderline control would not be patrolling but securing the borders. Personnel, equipment, vehicles, helicopters, etc would be made available, while at the time there was a shortfall of 4211 personnel.
- In 2004 a trial run would start on the Botswana and Namibia borders.

Brigadier-General Mike Nel (Director on Army Structures) took the meeting through the planned process of withdrawing of the SANDF support to SAPS, except for selective, short period engagement, and transferring of the commando functions to SAPS controlled reservists, as well as transferring the Equestrian/Canine Work Group to SAPS. Some active commandos had to be maintained and trained up till 2009, and force levels had to be maintained.

Commissioner Pruis responded to questions put by Mr Blaas, that the shortfall of 4200 mentioned before was indeed for permanent members of SAPS, that the reserve need would be filled, and that during the exit/entry phase the costing for additional equipment would become known and the money forthcoming.

Adv Schmidt asked how many of the 47 000 then active reservists of whom many were members of commandos would go into the reserves, and would the rural areas not suffer from a lack of security.

Commissioner Pruis replied that the 59 000 active commando members would each be individually approached. Sector policing then at 8 500 would rise to 34 000 in 2006. Sector policing assisted by street committees, adopt-a-neighbour, domestic worker watch could be very effective. Priority areas would receive most attention, and the intensity of crime in rural areas was relatively low. Urban/rural would be separate. He said that 2010 was a good target date for when everything would be in place.

Mr P Groenewald (Freedom Front) said that talk was cheap, and that the response time of the SAPS had been poor. The intelligence function of the SANDF would be missed and commandos had a major function to play. There was indeed a difference in cultures between soldiers and police, which was going to make the assistance by commando members very problematical. What would the position be with respect to intelligence equipment that commando members were using?

Commissioner Pruis repeated his statement that the cultural differences between policemen and soldiers were minimal, except for familiarity with the law. Reservists would be employed to do crime intelligence gathering at station level. He said that 50 000 additional rural reservists would be budgeted for, and eventually a total of 160 000. Army bases would be handed over, such as those at Doornberg and Philippi.

Admiral Trainor gave the assurance that army bases would be maintained while still in Army use, and would be handed over in good condition.

General Nel explained that commandos received salaries for specific tasks. Weapons and ammunition were issued to individuals. An audit was being done and it seemed that, apart from the fact that people simply did not keep records, there were few irregularities, and recovery would be satisfactory.

Major-General K M Mokoape (Chief Director Army Reserve) and Colonel R A Makgae gave a very brief review of the progress made with Project Phoenix in the South African Army.

Reserve Force Council progress report
Mr John Delmonte (Representative of the Reserve Force Council) gave a wide-ranging overview of the progress with Project Phoenix. He was critical of policy and strategy aspects, specifically in respect of the SA Army, while praising the efforts of the SA Military Health Service and also the SA AirForce. He tabled the concerns (11 in all) of the Reserve Force Council, 8 conclusions and 6 recommendations.

The consensus amongst Members was that the excessively rushed, overloaded meeting was of little value to them with hardly time for discussion.

The Chair regretted that since the previous meeting on this Project at the end of May 2003 nothing had changed and no progress had been made. He referred to the recent appointment of an additional 19 generals which was costing a lot of money. The meeting was then adjourned.


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