In a virtual meeting, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence was briefed by the Minister of Defence, on the appointment of the Reserve Force Council and the Chief Defence Reserves, and by the Department of Defence in response to the Succession Planning Discussion – status quo, challenges, and the way forward.
The Committee learnt that an appointment had been made for the Chief Defence Reserve position that had been vacant for a while. The successful candidate has been informed, but the official announcement will be made the next day.
The Committee has urged the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to urgently review its succession and career management policy, which Members deemed to be old, outdated, and not responsive to current and future challenges facing the armed forces. The Committee received a report from the Minister of Defence and senior management of the SANDF.
While the Committee called for the review, it appreciated the frank and candid conversation with the SANDF, which the Committee views as a critical step in resolving the challenge. The Committee said that the fact that the SANDF is utilising a career management policy adopted in 2001 is problematic, because it was responding to a different environment altogether. But Members acknowledged that the SANDF was forthright with recognising the policy's shortcomings.
The call for a review is to ensure a succession planning system that improves the morale of the serving members, which will ultimately qualitatively improve output. Also, an effective succession plan will ensure armed forces rejuvenation, guaranteeing deployable members within the SANDF.
The Committee has advised that the succession planning must be transparent, as opposed to the current, highly-classified process – which is a breeding ground for unhappiness within the Force.
Despite these concerns, the Committee welcomed the assurance that there is an ongoing process to integrate, update and simplify the process. If effectively implemented, a reviewed system will ensure that the processes are adequate for a complex organisation such as the SANDF. As part of the process, the Committee has committed to meeting experts to further discuss the issue of succession planning, especially tapping into experiences from different countries.
The Committee has also welcomed the assurance from the Minister that she is in the final stages of appointing the Reserve Force Council. Members noted the assurance that the SANDF will soon announce the name of the person appointed as the Chief of Defence Reserves.
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming all the Members and officials who were in attendance. He apologised for the one-hour delay and said it was due to another sitting in Parliament.
He then went through the agenda for concurrence and apologised for amending it without consulting the rest of the Members of the JSC. The Succession Planning presentation is a follow-up to the discussion with people that the Committee had invited, to hear their views on succession planning in general. The Committee is not picking on the Defense Force about this one. In the next couple of weeks, the Committee will be meeting with the Department of Military Veterans and will be tabling a similar issue before it. He said that he would revisit this point later once it is being discussed, and will speak more about it. Apologies were made on behalf of the Deputy Minister, Secretary for Defence, and Ms A Mthembu (ANC), who could not attend the meeting. The Chairperson acknowledged and welcomed the Minister who had just joined the meeting.
The Minister greeted the Members, and apologised on behalf of the SecDef and Deputy Minister. She told the Committee that the rest of her team from the Department of Defence was already in the meeting.
Mr S Marais (DA) said that absentees must follow the right channel of sending apologies even though their apologies are accepted. Apologies must be submitted to the Committee, and addressed to the Chairperson. It is not right that apologies are received through secretaries or Parliament Liaison Officers (PLOs).
The Chairperson did not see anything wrong with the way the apologies were received, because this is common practice everywhere. In fact, it’s common across government that, when a Minister or a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) will not be present in the meeting, they instruct their PLOs to communicate that to the Committee. It was accepted in that spirit. This is common practice that applies across government. There is nothing wrong with the PLO communicating the letter or the message of the Deputy Minister. The same PLO also communicated the message of the SecDef who is still on leave. The content of her letter or message will not be discussed in the meeting. The item on the table is that the term of office of the Reserve Force Council expired sometime back. It has been several months without there being a Reserve Force Council. In the last discussion about the matter, the Minister promised to look into that and then decide on the way forward. The second aspect relates to the Chief of the Reserve Force, whose post has been vacant since the end of last year, and remains vacant. An official in the Department was just standing in each time the Committee called for information, just to present on behalf of the Reserve Force. This was not a good thing. He requested that the Minister consult and decide on the matter.
The Minister agreed with that Chairperson pointing out that, the last time the Department engaged with the Reserve Force Council, it was accepted that its time was over. The Department has been interacting with Council and is in the process of making its determination on the Reserve Force Council. It is interesting to note that the RFC had just initiated the process before Covid-19. It would be a pity if the Department did not allow some of them to conclude.
The Minister requested that the Committee give the Department two weeks to come back to the Members and give an update on how it is concluding the matter. She assured the Committee that they are in the final stages of establishing the Reserve Force Council again. On the Reserve Force, an appointment has been made. The Chief can announce that.
Briefing on the Appointment of the Chief of Reserves
General Rudzani Maphwanya, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), reconfirmed that the approval was received from the Minister of Defense on the appointment of Chief Defense Reserve. The process has been tedious. However, due processes were followed in identifying the right candidate. The candidate has already been informed, and the paperwork has been concluded. The promulgation and the formal announcement will be done before the end of this week.
Mr Marais asked if there was no way that the Chief of SANDF could share the information with the Members, since the successful candidate had been informed of the appointment. He did not want to only hear about it in the media. Otherwise, it could have been shared yesterday if it had been a secret. Since it is on the agenda, it would be much appreciated if it could be shared with the Committee.
The Chairperson said this is a public meeting, hence making the announcement defeats the plan they have for tomorrow. Because of that, the announcement of the announcement should be left for tomorrow.
The Chairperson’s Remarks on Succession Planning
On succession planning, he said it would be interesting to know the issues that came up during the Committee symposium with the various guests that it invited to discuss the succession planning. The most critical part is that there seems to be an increase of senior members of the Defense Force occupying positions, beyond the age of 60. Some of them received their promotions when they were close to the age of 60. The only Chief of the Defence Force who was able to serve a longer term, for about ten years, is the previous chief of the Defence Force who possibly moved in when he was younger, relatively speaking. By 2027, the SANDF will lose about 107 generals through natural attrition. That is five years from now. Thus, looking at the age profile of the generals, most of them will have exited the system by that time. When a vacancy opens, it takes a while before it is filled permanently, leaving senior managers to play an acting role in those positions. The risk is that if one is in an acting position, they do not make long-term commitments and decisions, and then some paralysis kicks in. That creates some restlessness within the members, even though it is not clear whether it has happened or not. Acting positions naturally create indiscipline or instability within an organisation.
All these issues were discussed, including the general age profile of the Defense Force, and the fact that this is starting to be an ageing organisation. The SANDF has recruited the soldiers from the Reserve Force to guard national borders by complementing our regular force. However, in some cases, it is because some of the members’ health conditions no longer permit them to take demanding missions. Because of their advanced age, their health statuses are starting to become a problem for the Defence Force. So, young troops have to constantly feed into the army. In some countries, for a member to be promoted, they need to remain in one position for up to four years, before they move to the next position or get promoted. Since not everyone gets promoted at the same time, as a member moves up the system, it means that some members would have to move sideways. Some even have to exit the system, allowing for a seamless promotion of some of the organisation's members. The Committee will further study the issue, hoping that there can be another round of this discussion on the same matter when it has all the information. The aim is to sensitise the leadership of the Defense Force before this becomes a major crisis – by tabling the fact that the country no longer has an agile Force that is youthful and with good health status.
The Committee just wants to flag problems as they came up, so that the Minister and the Chief of the SANDF could respond, and then allow for some discussion. The Committee is not committing anybody to anything but, if there is a policy on the issues, it would prefer that it be shared with the Members for better understanding.
The Minister agreed with the remarks made by the Chairperson. She said that part of why she keeps harping on returning to the Department’s policies is precisely because the DoD has that issue. In its budget speech, the Department referred to the bulge lower and the bulge higher. That is why there is a need to look at ways to deal with this. The fact that the DoD has not been recruiting for years also contributes to that age profile.
Unless you start relooking at the system and restructuring it in such a way that you retain the critical skills and experience needed, but also creating a structure that is young and very agile in the movement upwards, skilled but disciplined, you get into the crisis that is at hand right now. She said that she is quite aware of the age situation in the SANDF, and it scares her a little bit because wars are not fought by generals, but by the younger ones who must be agile. There was a reference to the Russian succession system with a definitive age of entry and exit, which is 46 years. This is how they keep their Defence Force young. So, those who remain in the force after age 40 do so because of their expertise.
General Maphwanya commented that HR is the Department’s most important asset. As such, the management of such an asset becomes very important. Since HR is considered the most important asset, the Department must continue to take stock of that asset, so stock-taking of HR is critical. The discussion that the experts presented evoked great interest within the leadership of the South African National Defence Force. There are certain processes that the SANDF came up with, including a policy position that has been dubbed “From cradle to grave,” which is a guideline on how to manage the Defense Force personnel from entry to the exit until when a member then goes into the Reserve Force component. Within that system, the entity had outlined the rank age pyramid that spells out the desired age at every rank position. However, this policy document was led by the lack of an attractive exit process that is appropriately funded. He will not delve into much of that because within the SANDF career management, particularly the Succession Planning Framework, there is the Department of Defense Instruction Personnel (number 21 of 2001), which speaks about the Department of Defense policy on the promotion of members of the South African National Defence Force. This DODI now becomes the baseline policy document that informs all the processes of the career management system.
SANDF Succession Planning Presentation
Vice Admiral A.E. Kubu, Chief Human Resource, SANDF, gave the presentation. He said the presentation was requested following the presentation by the Defence Force Service Commission at the Military Academy on 26 May. The presentation will touch on what was raised then and how SANDF does succession planning. It will highlight where SANDF differs from the two entities, and why there is a contradiction.
Response to Presentations
Presentation by External Experts
The presentation is based on the literature on Succession Planning and historical facts about the application of Succession Planning in the SANDF. The Force does not differ from the external experts on succession planning. He clarified the issue of age, confirming that General Ngwenya(ret) retired at 60, which contradicts the over 60 age alluded to by the DFSC.
Presentation by the DFSC
It was based largely on the information from members who appeared to be very unhappy with the SANDF career management process.
-The findings and observations are not quantified.
-Lack of balanced view on the shortcomings of the organisation’s career management/succession planning gave the impression that there are no measures and systems that deal with succession planning matters and processes.
-The SANDF has a Career Management Process and System. However, it is not adequate, and it is not being applied consistently.
-The SANDF uses a One-Force Concept. Therefore, utilisation of Reserve Force members where Regular Force members are unavailable is consistent with doctrine.
-On the departmental promotion policy, a member cannot lay claim to promotion because he/she meets all the qualifications for promotion. Normally, members placed in promotional posts are given priority to attend courses, unless the exigency of the organisation does not permit attendance.
The presentations confirmed the well-known serious shortcomings of the SANDF Succession Planning Model and practices thereof. The high number of grievances related to career management, or lack thereof, revealed that the identified shortcomings and challenges are a result of the following:
-Absence of a dedicated electronic system and programme for career management and succession planning;
-Different interpretations of HR Career Management processes and procedures; There is a popular belief that career management is about promotion. The SANDF Human Resource Division disagrees with that belief. It believes that career management is the utilisation of the people with the correct profile, which could be moved from one position to another to give credence to the process. These people can be empowered to take up senior positions in the future.
-Failure to apply basic tentacles of the career management process;
-Failure to balance members’ personal circumstances with the organisation's operational requirements.
SANDF Succession Planning Framework
DOD Instruction (DODI) PERS NO 21/2001: Department of Defence Policy on the Promotion of Members of South African National Defence Force
-It is a baseline policy document that informs all processes of career management systems, including the development of individuals, placement, promotion, and the organisation's operational requirements. It is aimed at prescribing a uniform basis for the promotion of members (RegF and ResF), supplemented by promotion policies (sub policies) and developed by the respective career managers.
The SANDF succession planning model and practices are divided into two levels/categories:
-Colonels or Captains (SAN) and above (referred to as Top Officers) rest with the Chief of the SANDF.
-Lieutenant Colonel/Commanders and below, including Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, rest with Chiefs of Services and selected divisions.
For the purpose of this deliberation, the focus will be on Succession Planning for top officers.
Succession Planning For Top Officers
-Every year, conducts the C SANDF Annual Succession Planning Seminar.
-The HR Division is responsible for the staff work, coordination, and preparation of the SANDF Succession Planning Seminar.
-C SANDF Succession Planning Seminar is the only tool and process that the Military Command (MC), as a collective, exercises its command mandate and responsibility for filling funded vacant military posts.
Admiral Kubu said that this is a senior-rank-level group consisting of the Lieutenant Colonels. It has a total of 2 267 members, 281 of which are qualified staff or the Joint Senior Command Staff Program (JSCSP) ready to take over as Colonels. This accurate number can replace the retiring Colonels, especially if the SANDF keeps at this level. Staff qualified means they have already acquired functional training that will enable them to take over positions at the senior level.
On the average age: there are already Lieutenants with an average age of 32. A total of 78 of the members are within the desirable age range – between 32 and 47. This is where the rejuvenation comes in, with younger people being trained and becoming competent to take the senior position in the military.
If members with poor disciplinary records or shortcomings in performance were promoted, such information would not have been made visible to the MC. The SANDF is trying to reduce the inherent margin of error. The delay in making placement decisions from 2018 to 2020 might have created an impression that there is no succession planning in the SANDF.
It is submitted that there is a process of succession planning in the SANDF, which is part of the broader career management system of the organisation. However, these systems and processes are inadequate for a macro and complex organisation such as the SANDF.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the delegates from the DoD for the briefing. He said that the admission that there are shortcomings in the DoD and that it is working on them is a statement that covers everything central to the discussion today. The Department is still using the 2001 policy – a time when the country was almost seven years into the new dispensation. At that time, a lot was being managed, such as integrating the different forces coming from the different dispensations. The Department was trying to marry different cultures and systems.
“It is now time that we have a new system that recognises that there are young people who have come in and have now occupied senior positions. If you are a Colonel at the age of 37, it means that you came into the system post-1994 and did not belong to the forces before 1994. If you are 37 now, it means you were too young to be a member of any forces – either non-statutory or statutory. Even those who are 47 years old now could not have been part of the forces before 1994. The minimum age for the Brigadier Generals and Admirals is 42 years, with 22 years of service. So, surely these people started within the new dispensation. It means that we need to breathe in the fresh air that considers that we now have a new crop of people. Secondly, the majority of the people who were in the non-statutory and statutory are now exiting the system, and the majority of the middle management of the time who became seniors have also exited the system. So, it is high time that this policy is reviewed because it is too archaic, which is why it presents the shortcomings discussed. The more we retain it, the more it eats into the morale of our soldiers”, he remarked.
Dr Gareth Hide, a former member of the Reserve Force Council and a member of the South African Military Health Service Reserve, thanked Admiral Kubu for an extraordinarily candid, honest, and open discussion about the situation the SANDF faces. Admiral Kubu referred to the One-Force Concept that the SANDF has, and there is no question at all that there is going to have to be very careful attention paid to it, particularly to the Reserve Force component. The Military Health Service plays a significant role in this. The reserve component has been referred to previously as the expansion capability of the SANDF. This is particularly true when it comes to military medicine. Career progression in the reserves of the South African Military Health Service certainly needs a great deal of attention.
He said that he may have missed it but, as far as he is concerned, there was not any reference made to the University Reserve Training Programme that was implemented in 2005 as a pilot project at Wits University, and then rolled out under the auspices of the Chief of Defense Reserves, in 2011. This programme has not nearly reached its potential and value as the expansion capability of the SANDF. It is not just for the reserves because the experience in other countries, which have been doing a similar programme now for the better part of 100 years, has found that many of their best people – the brightest of young people from universities – have entered service in the regular force as well. The University Reserve Training Programme is something that needs to be given attention. The Reserve Force Council is and must be empowered and take responsibility for progressing this aspect further.
The Chairperson said that Admiral Kubu would have to talk more about the University Reserve Training Programme to fully inform the Committee on this.
Mr Marais said that the comments made by the Minister and the Chairperson were correct so far. The fact that the Chairperson has mentioned this means that succession planning and career planning have not been very effective, and Admiral Kubu has admitted that as well. The increase in the average age of the Defense Force over the last couple of years, from just over 40 years of age to close to 45 years of age, means that rejuvenation has not had an effect, and the forces are ageing. If one compares the situation in terms of the figures, the Force has, 40% of SANDF are between the ages of 45 and 65, compared to the general trend in the world – of seven percent or less. South Africa has 4.3% of forces below 24 years of age, whereas the general trend in the rest of the world is 30 to 35 years of age. This means there is a total skew staff component in the SANDF, which has affected the number of the Force’s deployable soldiers. “This shows that we cannot deploy on any project without using the Reserve Force members, because we do not have enough deployable regular force members. This needs to be rectified. Age is not an indication of competency; deliverables are rather a criterion. There can be young people that can be excellent leaders and older people who contribute very little. Thus, career planning must be adopted to address current and future challenges. The current challenges start with management. And if career planning is not done properly or is not properly implemented and executed, it is a direct reflection on management. If management does not do its work, then we sit with the problem”, he said.
He noted that Admiral Kubu has indicated that the Defense Act provides for extending contracts for members over and above 60 to 65 years of age. Many rumours are going around, about who gets the privilege of getting extended contracts, while others who reach the age of 60 do not get the same privilege. In some cases, there were vacancies for several months and even longer terms, with nobody filling those positions. Can the SANDF please give the Committee the details of the Defense Act, where it provides for that extension and the conditions?
On slide 12, is Major-General/Rear-Admiral (41) referring to two-star generals? Can Admiral Kubu indicate how many three and four-star generals the Force has? On the same slide, there is one point about excluding the following contracted members: two major generals, two brigadier generals, and two colonels. What are the justifications and the merits of those contacted persons in those ranks, and what is the impact thereof? “We need to ask ourselves, as part of the new directions that we must take into account” how many three and four-star generals and even two-star generals do we require for the work, the executions, and the operations to be done successfully? There must be proper career planning and openness on the qualifications and who has been identified for future leadership positions. That it is not automatic. When they know that they have a career and a possible career in the Defence Force, they will probably work harder, invest more of their time and effort, and probably deliver a lot more for us as South Africans. How can that be done, and to what extent is the Defence Force prepared to change the system? We must change and do it differently, so that we can have a different Defense Force focused on the deliverables and the challenges that we are facing”, he said.
Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) mentioned that he would have poor reception because he was experiencing load shedding for the last 22 hours, at Acacia Park. He said he missed some of the presentation content, but he had already gone through the document submitted before the meeting. He appreciated that there appeared to be a good understanding of the problem. He agreed with the acknowledgement that the career planning [inaudible @01:46:50 to 01:47:03] …has played a significant role in that. The accommodation of different forces during that force integration process has led to incredibly difficult decisions that needed to be made, and a degree of accommodation that had to take place. He noted that the Chairperson pointed out that the country is 28 years down the track, and people who have been integrated should be nearing their retirement age by now. There have been many criticisms against the South African National Defence Force from within the Committee and from experts as well, that SANDF is indeed a top-heavy force not only age-wise, but also on the ranking. It is beyond doubt that the country has a lot of generals and senior ranking officers. The question must be asked about the budgetary visit in progress, and the fact that there has been an acceptance that the budget needs to be trimmed substantially. There certainly must be a review now.
It is noted that several people are course qualified and have done the number of years required to achieve a promotion. However, as mentioned by Mr Marais, age and the number of years of experience do not automatically qualify one for that rank promotion.
On vacancies: where do posts currently exist? Is there a review of the validity or the need for those posts? Is the Defence Force looking at trimming down some of these high-rank posts to ensure that it becomes financially sustainable or at least able to spend its money on the right things instead of just salaries? “As much as succession planning is crucially important, part of succession planning is envisioning if we need to have four posts at the senior officer level, where one person or two people could do that job”, he said. Has it been considered during this discussion that the Committee is having about who is moving into what position, and during the Force rejuvenation discussion? Reviewing posts is a massively important part of succession planning and seeing whether things can be considered a little bit more carefully. Succession planning also needs to be reasonably transparent, and there should be a clear set of criteria laid out beforehand concerning course qualification and the number of years in service, so that there can be trust and a better understanding of why decisions have been made to promote one person above the other. It should be accepted because, if you do not have that, you have a breakdown of trust amongst the senior officers, which can be hazardous to the good functioning of a military unit.
The Chairperson noted that there was a talk of delinking pay from the ranking, because many people within the military were calling for it to address the issue of stagnation. Stagnation meant that people remained in the same post for a very long time, and there is suspicion that this could cause the soldiers' moral decline. The Members picked that up when they paid a visit to some of their bases, especially among the foot soldiers, and the main issue was stagnation. They said that they stay very long in the same position. Some are very close to retirement, yet they remain in Corporal or Lance Corporal positions, which are very low. This is a problem because, when the time for retirement arrives, they walk away with close to nothing, after having spent all their years in the military. This is not their fault, but it reflects how the succession plan has been managed within the military. There have been calls for the Minister to address the plight of the people in those positions, so the Members thought that delinking the pay from the rank would help address this issue. However, it is a function of resources. If no resources are available, it remains a lofty thing, because it is incapable of being implemented.
The Minister said that it would be a little difficult to respond to what the Members suggest about separating the rank from the pay package, because a person’s earnings also incentivize them to perform. It is not just a matter of sitting around and expecting to earn. What the Department needs to start doing with the new intakes is to begin to look at its policies, come back into line, and then begin to define exit mechanisms that are free and fair. There is nothing wrong with generals retiring at a young age, as they do in all the other countries of the world, because then they still have enough energy to start careers in politics or to get into business as executives. The Defence Force should enable members to be so multiskilled by the time they exit the system, so it is more of an enabler than a place where they work until their death. The Minister said she is not sure how to deal with this question, but it is also not to encourage people to think you can just bully others because you are in a particular position. She mentioned that, in her first six months as the Minister of Defence, she was getting too many calls from people who thought that, if you are a Minister, you can just promote people. Promotion should come with potential, performance, and proof that an individual is a fit and proper person to be moved into that higher rank. “At the same time, historically, we come from a past where we had to fit in and deal with race and gender issues”, she added.
Right now, the Department is supposed to be moving in a direction where it looks at potential and exploits that potential for the best possible use for the benefit of the country as a whole. “We should be moving from a system where we look at race and look at the formation that members come from, so that we create a balance”, she said. There is also a need to look at how gender will determine a promotion to make a particular case. “If we are stuck in what defined us at the time of integration, and not pulling out to regularise, be competitive, and have agile and younger generals such as those from other countries, we will continue to face challenges. So, regularisation should be done to create a space where succession is made easier, and identify and groom individuals – especially with gender not being an issue anymore. The Department is facing other challenges, and it went on the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) as a recruitment drive for young people across the board. Now, there is a situation of people who did not make it after two years of training because they were unfit. These people have dragged the Department to court, and are now receiving military pensions, yet they are in their twenties. This shows that there is also something wrong with the expectations of people, concerning what the Department can deliver. Several weaknesses should be looked at concerning recruitment, including the number of spaces that are available – to avoid creating an expectation that recruitment guarantees permanent membership in the Defence Force – which is not the case.
General Maphwanya said that the University Reserve Training Programme was meant to attract individuals to higher learning institutions and enrich the SANDF officers. The programme was very fruitful, but there were some shortcomings, which Admiral Kubu will elaborate on. When the programme started, the entity had to impart to those recruited – that they were first and foremost there to lead men and women in uniform. The Department tried balancing their studies and vacation to enable training capabilities in its institutions. The Department needs to revisit that form of rejuvenation, as it also gives the entity an added advantage in this modern world where technology has become a force multiplier. As such, the recruitment drive should not only be in numbers but also competencies that need to be attracted into the Defense Force, particularly in the medical environment. The Department would like to attract people already in the stream and speak about health matters. As such, General Maphwanya subscribes to the proposal by Dr Hide, that the entity should revisit the University Reserves Training Programme.
In response to Mr Marais's question on career planning, he agreed that it must be adopted to address the challenges of today and tomorrow's issues. He communicated to both the Military Command Council and the Chief Human Resource, in particular, that the entity needs to refrain from looking at the succession plan, as it used to be dubbed as the meat market. The process of succession planning has now been expanded and enriched by demanding that the Chief Human Resource should collect and collate data on the status of members through a stock-take of the human resource. This will inform the Department on what is available within the organisation because the military is different from any other organisation. Recruitment and movement cannot be filled by people from outside but grows the people from within the organisation. For instance, for one to be a captain, one needs to be a Lieutenant first – hence the suggestion that the entity needs to take stock to understand if those people in the organisation are placed in the right place. People should not be put in places where there are not trained for. This will at least allow the entity to place people with the correct competencies in the right position.
The military has a hierarchical structure that requires that the Defence Force design define the number of people in a particular rank. For a battalion, there needs to be a Lieutenant Colonel to be a commander, and the same applies as you move up the hierarchy. On the large number of people in the top ranks, he said that the matter could be articulated when looking at the defence review. The Department adopted the 2015 defence review, which gives the entity the guidelines on how the Defence Force should respond to contemporary challenges facing South Africans.
On the rejuvenation process, the Department has been transparent and has agreed that the succession plan must be transparent. It needs to start identifying young people and allow them to grow with the ranks as a way of motivating people. In concurrence with Mr Ryder, he said career planning should play a significant role in the modern world, because we have now moved from the era of integration to the era of rebuilding in the form of force rejuvenation. So, whoever is recruited should be somebody that will add value and allow the organisation to grow.
Vice Admiral Kubu reiterated the University Reserve Training Programme, saying it was one of those interventions meant to enable the SANDF to recruit people with scarce skills such as engineers, medical doctors, technical people etcetera. The programme started very well, but it was realised later that, during the period of recess – when the entity wanted to keep, train and expose them to either basic training or other functional training – it started losing some of them because it is the time that they also probably wanted to relax and be home. As such, the three years or four years that were planned, depending on the time that their qualification had to be completed, it was always going difficult to get them in the system, to wear the uniform and come in for their shifts. The SANDF tried to give those that were available some training. Some of these University Reserves were appointed permanently after completion of their qualification in both the regular force; those that did not want to join the regular force joined the reserves. It is still a concept that the SANDF still needs to use, but it has to go back to the drawing board concerning the training during the period of recess, which has always been a problem for all of them. The SANDF accepted that challenge and felt the need to rethink things. Since the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020, it did not aggressively recruit these University Reserves. The ones it was dealing with or those that got through were already appointed because the entity also stopped the intakes. The Department needs to go back to that concept, as it is a good concept that exposes the young people – especially in the scarce skill mastered in the military.
In response to Mr Marais’ question about the section of the Defence Act that is used in the appointment of soldiers until the age of 65, he said that chapter nine of the Defence Act talks about the appointment, and Section 52 subsection one will talk about that issue. That chapter or subsection stipulates that the SANDF can appoint people in their permanent or temporary capacity until age 65.
On the three stars in the SANDF, there are nine three-stars in the post establishment: the Four Service Chiefs and the Five Divisional Chiefs. In response to the question of whether the organisation requires all these positions at those levels, he said that this is another discussion that has been taking place with the Military Command Council. It was agreed that, when the force design and force structure are done, these issues must be included. Force design and force structure will also look at the human composition for the entire DoD. The Department is still busy with that, which is a concept with the Chief of Defence. When it is finalised and approved, it may address and determine whether all these people are required at different levels in the ranks. It is on the agenda to finalise force design and force structure in the organisation.
The transparency of the process of promotion and appointment is lacking and needs to be attended to deal with appointments at a senior level. On delinking the pay from the rank, the General said there had been a bit of delinking done since 2009. When this concept was introduced, the SANDF started operationalising it, as seen in the number of privates depending on the number of years that the privates can be compensated to the Corporal level. This means that it is already the third-rank level, but this person is still a Corporal. Last year, there was an exercise that helped to identify all the privates that have been in the system for a long period, and it was accepted by the military command that there were injustices done to these people. It was agreed that the SANDF must come with a career intervention for the privates long in the ranks. It was also interesting that, even when the entity wanted to give them the next rank, they were already in the other rank – above the same rank they were supposed to be promoted to.
In summary, the delinking has been operationalised, which probably needs to be looked at again because the SANDF accepts that the military follows a pyramid structure. They cannot have it any other way. It will always have that structure; not everybody will go to the senior ranks. Therefore, delinking will be better because people will be happy to be compensated and grow in their salaries if they do not exit the system. Delinking is still a concept currently applicable to technical people; military university educators and most professionals do not talk about ranks anymore. They are functionally promoted to the next higher rank, which is almost the levels closer to the rank level of the next ranks. Some are even surpassing those. For instance, some technical engineers are already at function level 12 but are paid for levels 13 and 14. The delinking has happened, probably differently, but the SANDF has looked at it.
The Chairperson said that the Admiral is correct that there have been several short shortcomings in the succession planning process or system of the SANDF. Following the discussion after the Committee invited the experts to come and present on succession planning, the SANDF has reflected on its processes, systems, and practices. It has been agreed that it needs to go back and review the shortcomings in the systems and practices, which have led to some unhappiness within the military. This unhappiness is at all levels, from junior to senior, and it has been due to the way the whole process has been managed. The Chairperson said that he is happy the matter is being looked at; the Committee will give the entity some time. The year in which the system was developed, 2001, is archaic. It was a period to accommodate the sensitives of the time when different forces were being amalgamated, both the statutory and none statutory forces. “We are now 28 years into democracy and have new people coming into office. Even in senior management, we have people who were not part of the pre-1994 forces. So, there must be new life breathed into it”, he said. In the meantime, the SANDF must have a strategic meeting to hammer out a policy that talks to the now and tomorrow, not the past.
The Chairperson noted that the Minister was very clear in saying that, in the past, several variables were considered. They were addressing the conditions that existed at the time. Now there is a different set of conditions, which warrants a review view of the policies. He said the foot would not be taken off the pedal because the direction was good. He will task the content advisor to talk to Dr Moses Khanyile, and Admiral Kubu, and to consult one or two others to check if the Committee can have another round of discussions with the experts from outside the country – this time through these online platforms. “They can join the Committee from anywhere in the world, and share their experiences as part of deepening the discussions and enriching our process”, he said.
Mr Marais told the Chairperson that the Committee is behind him in his assumption, and is in full agreement with how he just summed it up now. The Minister and the Chief of Defence must also hear that this is the Committee’s view and not an individual view of the Chairperson. All Members share that same sentiment, 100%.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Marais for highlighting that. It is the spirit of the Committee to look at things in harmony.
General Maphwanya said that he took note of all the points raised by the Members, and promised to work tirelessly to implement the advice given. The Chief of Defence committed to carrying out their study internally, improving their processes, and reviewing the archaic policy before engaging with the Committee again.
The Minister said she was quite emotional today after meeting three young Lieutenants who had just qualified. She was very proud because these youngsters symbolised a future of South Africa, which is very bright and very energetic. That will challenge us to become what we set out to be. The future is promising, and the older generation must help just to play good nestmates and midwives, and allow South Africa to reach its potential. That means that the quality of soldiers should not be compromised. “We are going to do everything that we can do to enable them to carry on in the protection services of our country”, she said.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and her team for the presentation, and released them from the virtual platform.
The Committee then considered and adopted outstanding meeting minutes. There were no amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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