DFSC 2021 Annual Activity Report; Feedback on engagement between the DFSC and the Minister of Defence; Presidential letter on the extension of SANDF deployment in KZN


25 August 2022
Chairperson: Mr V Xaba (ANC) & Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary


Presentation on proposed study tour by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (internal document)

In a virtual meeting, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence received a briefing on the Defence Force Service Commission 2021/22 Annual Activity Report. The Commission surrendered 17.76% of its total allocated budget in 2021, due to various strategic and operational factors, including the negative impact of COVID-19. It continued to face challenges in the human resources component. Only 13 out of 19 posts were filled, and three vacancies were unfunded.

The Committee received feedback on the engagement between the Commission and the Minister of Defence, which aimed, among other things, to clarify the respective mandates of the Commission and the Military Bargaining Council. It had been decided that both entities would continue to operate for a year, after which time a final decision on their continuing operation would be taken.

They questioned the need for the Commission to spend almost R200 000 on upgrading its boardroom and the appropriateness of the army using public transport, as had happened recently. They asked whether it was aware of the situation involving over 800 reservists of the Umzimvubu Regiment who had been called up to take part in Operation Prosper but had not been paid and had endured appalling conditions. They were disappointed that the Commission reported a lack of cooperation with the Department.

The Committee received an update on the ongoing interventions by the South African National Defence Force in Kwazulu-Natal, Operation Chariot. The Operation had been extended until 15 September 2022 because its interventions were incomplete. These incomplete interventions, which were being undertaken in conjunction with local government, included road repairs and emergency water supplies.

Members of the Committee commended the Force for its efforts. They asked about the role of provincial and local government in the interventions, and noted that the Force had taken responsibility for functions that were ordinarily the responsibility of municipalities. They sought information about what would happen after the Operation ended. They asked why protests were ongoing in the Tongaat area and whether the Force was still involved in recovering bodies.

The Committee also deliberated on a proposed joint study tour of the Portfolio Committee and the Joint Standing Committee. The tour would enable the Committees to make concrete recommendations to both the Department of Defense and National Treasury on efforts to optimise force design, force structure and human resources management of the defence force. Members agreed in principle to visiting Egypt and one of Brazil, Germany or Turkey.

Meeting report

The Chairperson accepted apologies from Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Thandi Modise, and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla, and invited the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) to make its presentation.

Presentation on the DFSC 2021 Annual Activity Report

Mr Ian Robertson, Chairperson, DFSC, presented the Report. It covered performance information, governance, human resources management and financial information.

Performance information

DFSC had not been audited by the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) or by the DFSC internal audit division in 2021/22, but the latter had conducted an ad-hoc audit on the management of subsistence and travel advances and claims within the Commission in November 2021.


DFSC had been unable to execute some of its planned strategic activities during the period under review, due to a lack of support and cooperation from the Department. These included visits to several important military bases and units. It struggled to fulfil its mandate due to budget constraints and capacity challenges. It requested a detachment from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to augment some of its functions.

Human resources management

DFSC continued to face challenges in the human resources component. Only 13 out of 19 posts were filled, and three vacancies were unfunded. The Commission was currently reviewing the human resources structure, and filling the posts had been put on hold until the review was complete.

Financial Information

DFSC surrendered 49% (R2.7m) of its operational budget during the reporting period. This amounted to 18% of its total allocated budget. This was due to various strategic and operational factors, including the negative impact of COVID-19. It had surrendered R2.7m to the Department of Defence (DoD) partly due to the imminent finalisation of the tender process for the DFSC boardroom and the deferral of the procurement process for the DFSC website. Total expenditure in 2021/22 had been 64% of its allocated budget of R15.2m. There had been no unauthorised, irregular, fruitless or wasteful expenditure. There were no findings or discrepancies in the Commission's asset management register.

Feedback on the Engagement between the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans and the DFSC

Vice Admiral Asiel Kubu, Chief of Human Resources, SANDF, recalled that DFSC had submitted a list of almost 200 recommendations to the Department based on its findings in the period from 2013 to 2020. The Department had agreed to arrange a retreat to streamline the implementation of the recommendations and to unpack the mandate of the DFSC, which was to play an advisory role on issues related to service conditions of military personnel, in light of the re-establishment of the Military Bargaining Council, whose mandate was to negotiate on behalf of its members. At the retreat, it was decided that both entities would continue to operate for a year, during which time any points of conflict or overlap of their mandates would be identified. The situation would be reviewed and a final decision made thereafter.


Mr S Marais (DA) recalled that since the Military Bargaining Council (MBC) had not been acknowledged in the past, DFSC had played the role of representing employees. The presentation indicated that DFSC would now be making recommendations to the Minister, which was a function of the SANDF's human resources division. This would mean they would not represent the employees anymore but rather the employer. This was a significant difference in the DFSC mandate. He was a bit confused by the apparent duplication of functions between the MBC and DFSC and between DFSC and the human resources division. Could DFSC clarify the role that it would play in negotiations between the employer and employees? Within the MBC, who would represent the employer and who would represent employees?

Mr Robertson saw no contradiction in the role of DFSC concerning the MBC or the human resources division. DFSC advised the Minister on conditions of service, but did not get involved in negotiations on behalf of uniformed personnel. Some of these conditions did relate to human resources matters but others related to, for example, tools of the trade. He believed there was still a role for the DFSC going forward.

Admiral Kubu observed that Mr Marais' analysis of the role of DFSC was correct in part. However, service conditions were quite broad. They did not only refer to human resources matters but also facilities, for example, which was the responsibility of a different division. It could be argued that if all the various divisions were operating probably, there would be no need for DFSC to advise the Minister. However, his view was that DFSC was in a position to do thorough, independent research from outside the various structures of the military, thereby acting as a force multiplier. He acknowledged that there did exist the possibility of duplication of functions, and he hoped that any conflicts and overlaps would be resolved over the next year of their ongoing operation. He pointed out that DFSC and the MBC were both established in terms of legislation, so it would not be possible in any case to simply shut them down without following due process. He emphasised that no decision had been made yet. He confirmed that employees of the Department were represented by unions such as the South African National Defence Union (SANDU), while the Department was represented by people appointed by the Minister. He acknowledged that these structures were quite complicated to manage.

Mr Marais asked about the role of DFSC concerning the Reserve Force Council (RFC).

Mr Robertson explained that DFSC had a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the RFC, which worked with the reserve force members. The RFC's term of office had come to an end in November 2021. It was a formal relationship and the RFC attended some of the meetings of DFSC and had briefed DFSC on some of its projects.

Admiral Kubu reported that the Minister had met with the outgoing RFC and was looking at appointing a new Council.

Mr Marais questioned the need to spend almost R200 000 on upgrading a boardroom, given that the role of DFSC was to visit sites and bases.

Mr Robertson replied that the boardroom had been upgraded with video conferencing facilities. Going forward, it would save money because people would not need to be transported across the country for meetings.

Mr Philly Motsepe, Director, DFSC, confirmed that the boardroom was upgraded by installing a video conference system to try and anticipate the new way of doing things due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He recalled that the Committee had been made aware of over 800 reservists of the Umzimvubu Regiment who had been called up to take part in Operation Prosper had not been paid and who had endured appalling conditions at its headquarters in Mthatha. Had DFSC raised this matter or paid them a visit? It would be strange if it had not.

Mr Robertson replied that DFSC had visited the site in 2017 or 2018 but not since then. It had made certain recommendations then, which had been among the recommendations submitted to the Department.

Mr Motsepe confirmed that DFSC had not visited the Umzimvubu Regiment headquarters since 2017.

Mr Marais said that his question had not been understood. It seemed like DFSC was unaware of the 800 reservists who had been called up. There had been chaos when they arrived at the headquarters of 14 South African Infantry Battalion. This had happened much more recently, in 2021.

Mr Robertson replied that he was indeed unaware of these issues.

The Chairperson recalled that DFSC had made findings on 1 and 2 Military Hospitals and the South African Military Health Service. He asked Mr Robertson if he would be willing to share the Commission's findings with the Committee ahead of the meeting with the Department on the same issue in September 2022.

Mr Robertson committed to making the Commission's findings on 1 and 2 Military Hospitals available to the Committee.

Dr Ziyaad Essop, Commissioner, DFSC, added that he would be available to attend the meeting with the Department. The Commission was currently finalising its recommendations on 3 Military Hospital but these would not be ready until the following year.

The Chairperson also recalled that DFSC was to engage with the Department of Transport (DoT) on the use of public transport for the SANDF and the reserve force members. Why was it necessary to use public transport to transport members of the SANDF and the reserve force?

Ms Salome Mabilane, Commissioner, DFSC, said the Commission had previously had an informal engagement with the DoD to explore transportation solutions. The Department had advised the Commission to formalise the engagements with the DoT. This was in process, but due to the pandemic, no further engagements had occurred. She committed to giving the Committee an update on the outcome of the engagements.

The Chairperson appreciated the information but noted that Ms Mabilane was not telling the Committee whether the solution would be appropriate for members of the SANDF. He was raising the matter because there had been an outcry during the 2021 unrest in Kwazulu-Natal when members of the SANDF had been seen using what was deemed an inappropriate mode of transport.

Ms Mabilane asked Mr Thabo Magubane, Researcher, DFSC, to provide the detail that the Chairperson was requesting.

Mr Magubane said that the engagements with Dot were taking a long time precisely because DFSC wanted to ensure that the transportation solution was implementable and appropriate for the SANDF.

The Chairperson observed that the R2.7m million that the DFSC had surrendered was a large sum, considering its total budget. Was it a complete surrender or was the Commission expecting the money to be rolled over in the new financial year?

Mr Robertson replied that the money would not be rolled over. It would not affect the Commission's medium-term budget.

The Chairperson noted the Commission's concern over the specific tasks that could not be performed due to a lack of cooperation from the Department and SANDF and asked for the matter to be dealt with in the meeting with the Minister. The work of the Commission should not be impeded in any way as it was established with its mandate by law, hence any suggestion that it failed to fulfill its mandate because of a lack of cooperation was regrettable.

Mr Robertson accepted the Chairperson's comments about cooperation with the SANDF. He had arranged a meeting with the Chief of the SANDF the Friday before to discuss the problems but the meeting had been postponed at the last minute. He had requested the head of the DFSC Secretariat to engage with the personal staff officer of the Chief of the SANDF. The Commission would report back to the Committee if the problems persisted.

Mr T Mafanya (EFF) asked for more detail on the capacity challenges at the DFSC. Perhaps they had been responsible for the ongoing problems, including the Commission's failure to carry out oversight of certain institutions. 

Mr Robertson replied capacity challenges had been an issue for some time. The Commission needed extra research capacity because a large part of its work is research-based. It had interacted with Admiral Kubu on this issue to see whether the DFSC could get uniformed personnel attached to the SANDF to assist the Commission in doing extra research. The Commission was looking at ways to restructure that would allow it to appoint senior researchers.

The Chairperson noted the capacity challenges and committed to engaging with the Department on them when the budget was discussed by the Portfolio Committee on Defence.

Briefing by SANDF on the extension of Operation Chariot

Major General K Nompetsheni, Joint Operations Division, SANDF, began by providing some background about the SANDF's deployment in Kwazulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West Province following the floods in April 2022 ('Operation Chariot'). He outlined the SANDF's role in responding to the disaster and the current force levels. He explained that the operation had been extended until 15 September 2022 because SANDF had not completed its interventions. These incomplete interventions, which were being undertaken in conjunction with local government, included road repairs and emergency water supplies.


The Chairperson commended the SANDF for the job well done. He suggested it find a way to share evidence of the work it had carried out, even if it was no more than a one-minute clip on national television.

Dr M Basopu (ANC) also commended the army for the job well done. He asked what the roles of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and local municipalities were in the operations. After all, municipalities themselves were ordinarily responsible for the water supply, and they should not fold their arms just because the SANDF was providing assistance. Similarly, road repair was ordinarily a responsibility of local government. When the SANDF finally did withdraw, would municipalities sustain the work? How did SANDF ensure that donated items were done in a coordinated manner, so that communities were able to appreciate the work done by the SANDF?

Mr T Mmutle (ANC) also appreciated the work of the SANDF in assisting communities affected by the floods. He noted that there was currently a protest about water supply in the Tongaat area. Kwazulu-Natal Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Mr Sihle Zikalala had been there earlier that day addressing the community and he had committed to seeking the intervention of the national government through the Minister of Water and Sanitation. SANDF's presentation indicated that it was providing water there. Was it still doing so? Why had there been a protest if they were still providing the water?

Mr Mafanya also appreciated the work that has been done by the SANDF. He added that measures should be taken to avoid the abuse and exploitation of the soldiers in cases where other departments should have taken some responsibility. At the beginning of the floods, there had been an urgent need for the SANDF to assist, but at some point people ended up placing their trust in the army rather than the police. Care should be taken to ensure that the intervention of the army does not become a divisive issue in communities. They had done splendid work but some of it was supposed to be done by municipalities and COGTA. He asked whether bodies were still missing and what kind of technology would be needed to recover such bodies. The police could have played a role in this area. There were families still that still needed closure.

Mr Marais complimented the SANDF for its work during the July uprising and now in response to the floods, which showed that there was a specific role for the SANDF. He said the SANDF also made the Committee's work easier because when people see and experience the Force's work, it overshadowed the negative issues that are out there. He also complimented the SANDF on the presentation, which he said could be a model for all presentations on SANDF operations.

Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) made a brief comment in Sotho.


Major General Nompetsheni emphasised that the SANDF was working together with local communities in Kwazulu-Natal. It understood that it was there as an interim measure and the community was informed of this. COGTA and the responsible departments would continue the work. He said that the SANDF was still supplying water to Tongaat but it was not enough because the SANDF was not only supplying Tongaat but also other areas. It was high time that the local government took over responsibility. The SANDF has done a lot of work such as the water purification plants in Inanda, Hazelmere, and other areas. He reported that at a meeting with the Deputy President the day before, the question of what would happen with unfinished projects after the SANDF withdrew on 15 September had arisen. He had replied then that his duty was limited to ensuring that the SANDF had done its work until 15 September. It was not his decision whether another extension was granted.

Admiral Kubu added that if the President required the SANDF to remain after the expiry of the deployment in September, it would accept the responsibility. He said missing bodies remained a concern and the SANDF had felt that the extension would probably allow it to find other bodies, so that families could get closure. The SANDF sympathised with the people of Kwazulu-Natal and was not in a rush to leave. If asked by the President to continue the operation, it would oblige. 

Presentation on proposed study tour by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans

Dr Wilhem Janse van Rensburg, Researcher, Joint Standing Committee on Defence and Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, explained that the purpose of the presentation was to foster discussion among members. He observed that two key issues had emerged relating to the mandates of the two Committees: defence capability and local and international deployments, and force structure and force design, with a specific focus on human resources management. Both committees had focused significantly on the issue of compensation of employees, which had reached almost 70% of the defence budget. The proposal was for a joint study tour focusing on force structure and force design with a specific focus on cost-effective human resource management.

Dr Janse van Rensburg suggested visiting one developed country with a stronger and more structured military than South Africa, to see what we can learn from them, and one developing country facing challenges similar to those of the SANDF was facing. He presented Australia,  Angola, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States of America (USA) as options and discussed their relative merits as study tour destinations. He drew attention to the fact that South Africa spent a significantly higher percentage of its defence budget on compensation of employees than the other countries, which left very little for capital acquisition and operations. The average age of personnel in the South African military was also higher than the other countries.



Mr Marais commended the research team on the presentation. He welcomed the suggestion that the Committee looks at a developing world force and a developed world force. He thought that Egypt had the advantages of being another African country and having the continent's leading military. From there it would be cost- and time-effective to go to either Germany or the UK. The combination of Australia and Singapore, for instance, or the United States and Colombia, could also work but cost comparison would be important. He thought that the study tour would be an enormous investment into the future of the defence force as a proud force that could protect and serve South Africa and future generations.

Mr Mmutle also thanked Dr Janse van Rensburg for the comprehensive presentation. He asked if the team could provide information on some other countries, such as Turkey, as there was a relationship between South African and Turkish companies in the defence industry. He also suggested visiting BRICS countries like India, Brazil or Russia, so the tour aligned with government-to-government relations. He asked if the research team could look into these countries before the Committee made a final decision.

The Chairperson proposed visiting two countries, a developing country in Africa and a developed country outside the continent. He supported the suggestion of Egypt because of its very strong relations with South Africa and the existence of direct flights from South Africa to Egypt, which would help keep costs down. He also noted that Egypt had opened its market for South African goods, which showed that the relationship is also very strong. Further, Egypt had invested a lot in its military. He did not think it would be worthwhile to consider going to very advanced countries because it would be difficult to learn anything from them. He shared his experience of a visit to America, whose military was too big to compare with South Africa in terms of investment, structure, and size. He suggested that China could be looked into, however. Germany was another country that could be considered as well, but it all boiled down to the cost. Turkey was a strong candidate too.

Dr Janse van Rensburg replied that Mr Mmutle was correct that there were significant developments in Turkey's defence industry but the reason for excluding it in this specific case was that it has quite a large defence force and it spends a comparatively large percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence. There was also not much publicly available information on its human resources management. Thus while Turkey had the advantage of being a similarly developed country with a similar economy and a booming defence industry, South Africa would probably not be able to learn much from it about force structure, force design and human resources management.

He agreed with Chairperson that it would be difficult for South African to learn anything from countries with very large defence forces. The only reason he had included the USA was that it had a specific human resources management policy intended to rejuvenate the force, which he thought might have been a good study point.

The Chairperson asked what the situation was in Brazil.

Dr Janse van Rensburg replied that Brazil had quite a big military as well. It also had the disadvantage of being located some distance from the other candidates, which could increase travel costs.

Mr Mmutle agreed with the sentiments shared by other Members but felt that the Committee would be doing itself a disservice if it excluded countries with large defence forces. In the case of China, for example, South Africa might learn something by looking at where it came from and how it got where it is today. The Committee should not only consider employee costs but also the size of the defence force relative to the population of the country.

The Chairperson noted that Brazil was the second largest military force in the Americas, after the United States, and had a population of 214m. He asked members to agree in principle on visiting one African country and one outside the continent.

Mr Marais agreed, reiterating his suggestion to visit Egypt because there were so many points of comparison and because Egypt had overtaken South Africa as the continent's leading military power. Egypt had done so much to develop its defence industry, contrary to what was happening in South Africa. Turkey could also be a good choice, but there were a lot of controversies surrounding it. For example, it had been involved in the issue of end-user certificates, unlike Egypt.

The Chairperson noted that the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) would have the final say. He also pointed out that some countries had stopped welcoming South African delegations for study tours because of the impression that these delegations did not learn anything from earlier delegations.

Mr Marais agreed on the need to consult with DIRCO, but pointed out that, fortunately, the objective of the study tour under consideration was very specialised and very focused, and no other committees would have touched on the areas it would be going into.

The Chairperson asked if there was any objection to the choice of Egypt.

There were no objections.

The Chairperson requested the research team to look further into Brazil, Turkey and Germany as possible second destinations.

The meeting was adjourned.  

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