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DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
12 April 2005
DEPARTMENT HUMAN RESOURCES UPDATE; COMMITTEE REPORT ON MILITARY ACADEMY VISIT: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Professor K Asmal (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department PowerPoint presentation: Human Resources Strategy
Department Progress Report on Human Resources
Committee report on Saldanha Military Academy visit
Summary of recommendations: Committee report on Saldanha Military Academy visit
Years in Rank vs Age per Rankgroup in the SANDF
Progress Report on Implementation of DOD Human Resource Strategy 2010
The Department of Defence presented its quarterly report summarising the aims, objectives and progress of its Human Resources (HR) Strategy 2010. Priorities currently on target included progress in reducing staff, replacing older personnel with younger qualified recruits, improving throughput in the system, achieving gender and racial balance and implementing training programmes. Scarce skills were being addressed. The Military Skills Development System and the Youth Foundation Training Programme were also explained. The aims and objectives of the Intra Mobility/Exit Mechanism (IMEM) were detailed, but it was noted that this issue was before the Military Arbitration Board for resolution of a dispute. The Committee called for a full report from the Department by mid-June on resolution of the dispute. Further clarification was given on the training schemes and the rejuvenation process.
The Committee then considered its Programme, and expressed concern that some of the proposed legislation had not been referred to the Committee despite being tabled in Parliament, whilst other legislation had been delayed. The Chairperson asked that a full written report on progress be presented by the Department before 17 May.
The Chairperson then tabled a detailed report, with findings and recommendations, on the Committee’s oversight visit to the Training Academy at Saldanha, which was unique in that it offered both military and academic training for the officer corps. The oversight visit showed that much needed to be done to improve and refine the training offered. Funding was needed to improve resources. With the emphasis shifting to participation in peacekeeping, officers needed to be educated to step into roles of leadership with vision, flexibility and sensitivity to cultural, social and psychological factors. The Academy needed to be renewed and reshaped to promote academic excellence and value-for-money training throughout Africa. The report was discussed, approved and adopted and a resolution passed to table it in the National Assembly for discussion.
Department Human Resources Strategy briefing
Brigadier General A L de Wit (Chief Director, Human Resources) presented a quarterly report to the Portfolio Committee on the implementation of "HR Strategy 2010", with emphasis on personnel flow, challenges, exit mechanisms and the way forward. He reported that the Department aimed to achieve an excellent, combat-ready force, capable of long-term support and peacekeeping. The current personnel figure of 77 000 would be reduced to 75 000 by 2010. This would be achieved by natural attrition, by replacement with younger people, by voluntary retrenchment and by phasing out the auxiliary services. Natural attrition was currently fairly stable.
Incentives had been introduced to attract and keep scarce skills. A new two-year skills development system had been introduced and by January 2006 the intake should have reached 4851. The racial and gender balance was good. The rejuvenation scheme, aimed at attracting 18-24 year olds had been successful as 34% of personnel now fell in this category. The Youth Foundation Training Programme, which upgraded maths, science and accountancy skills needed in the scarce skills musterings, had achieved an 80% success rate. The Military Skills Development System (MSDS) was aimed at various levels. The Interim Mobility / Exit Mechanism (IMEM) was aimed at giving personnel of high rank and age, who were not likely to progress further, the opportunity to exit the service voluntarily with good pension and departmental benefits. This mechanism was not yet in operation; a dispute had been declared and referred to the Military Arbitration Board. The Department emphasised that the way forward was to improve the HR flow, to release budget from HR to long-term capital expenditure, and to approve the IMEM to facilitate the exit mechanism.
Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked for further clarification on the IMEM dispute. The Chairperson asked whether any other defence force had a Military Arbitration Court, what its powers were, and whether the decisions were binding.
Ms T Manzini (Director, Human Resources Policy Management) reported that the problems arose when the trade union did not wish the IMEM issue to be discussed as part of the wage negotiations. The matter was referred to the Military Arbitration Board (MAB). The union had then questioned the composition of the MAB and called for different appointments. The exit mechanism itself had not come under scrutiny as yet. Dr M Ledwaba (Chief Director, Human Resources) added that some employees feared that the exit mechanism could lead to compulsory retrenchment. The Department of Public Service and Administration was still responsible for determining conditions of service. Once Section 55 of the Defence Act had been promulgated, which should take place shortly, the Minister of Public Service and Administration would no longer be involved in the process.
The Chairperson did not believe that civil servants were able to interpret the terms and conditions of severance packages. He expressed concern that a copy of the exit mechanisms had not been provided to the Committee.
Mr J Rathebe (Director, Legal Support) gave the background to the Military Arbitration Board. In 1995 there was disagreement whether SANDF personnel would be allowed to form trade unions. After the Constitutional Court ruled on the matter, it was agreed that the Defence Act, 2002 had to be re-drafted, providing limited rights to form a union, but no right to strike. Therefore there had to be a mechanism to deal with disputes. The MAB was set up as the appropriate body, and could make awards that were binding. Mr Rathebe was not aware of any other country with a similar system.
The Chairperson requested that the Department report back to the Committee, by mid-June, with written statements why the establishment of the IMEM had been delayed for so long, whether additional funds were needed from Treasury, how the Committee could assist, and how the processes could be expedited. He wanted to hear the views of the Minister on the issue, so that the Committee could consider whether an amendment to the Defence Act was required, and whether additional funds were required from Treasury. He suggested that Department should itself study the ways in which other democracies had resolved such issues.
The Chairperson commented that he was gratified to see how the Youth Foundation Programme was working and he asked for more details on the MSDS.
Brigadier General de Wit replied that the MSDS was the first phase of the future development of the SANDF, in which Grade 12 students were recruited, although they would also recruit up to the age of 22 for non-graduates, and 26 for graduates. All recruits undertook basic training of three months, and junior leaders who were selected from these recruits proceeded to the Heidelberg training facility to start their two-year training towards the Certificate in Military Studies. Commissions would be given in the second year of training. After completion of the certificate the recruits would then be selected for the corps service system, ensuring throughput, and assisting to achieve the correct age/rank balance as explained to the Committee.
The Youth Foundation Programme was seen as an interim programme. The open labour market competed for the same persons. The SANDF experienced some difficulty in finding people with sufficiently high grades for the engineering and technical musterings. The Department now offered further training in selected science and mathematics subjects so that recruits could re-write their Grade 12 exams, upgrade from standard to higher grade, and achieve better results.
The Chairperson asked about the experience of the graduate intake, and how many of the recruits undertaking the two-year certificate would be employed permanently by the SANDF.
Brigadier-General De Wit replied that some tensions had arisen with graduates but ideally the SANDF would like to see all officers holding a tertiary qualification. His office aimed to establish satellite recruitment offices at universities. The MSDS did not receive a great deal of funding and some graduates could be deployed to the corps service system after the initial stages. Of the 140 people in the 2003 intake, all were appointed permanently. As the MSDS grew, a specified number would be appointed to the corps and the remainder to the reserves.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC) was concerned that since the IMEM was not yet in place, there would be an adverse knock-on effect on age/rank alignment. He supported the Chairperson that the matter needed to be looked at urgently.
Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked what development path would be followed by recruits who intended to make a career in the SANDF, and how this met the objectives of replenishing ageing staff. He wondered if those who had not reached an expected rank by a certain age should not be clearly notified that their time in the SANDF would be limited. He realised that until the IMEM plan was in force to allow them to exit, the scheme could not be put in place. He also asked for clarity on the status of the Service Corps at present.
Major-General L Mollo (Chief Director, HR Support) reported that the rejuvenation process meant that recruits who had specialised would be deployed elsewhere, including outside the borders. The development path would depend on the different musterings. Brigadier General de Wit added that recruitment was done for specific services and specific corps, that corps schools would be used for training after the basic training period, and that deployment would generally be by the selected corps. The concept of redeployment through IMEM was aimed to increase throughput, which included negotiating for job opportunities through links with the SETAs and proper management of the re-skilling process.
Major General Mollo reported that there were ongoing discussions on the future of the Service Corps and in particular whether it should form part of the Department’s Human Resources, since the challenges facing this corps crossed a number of state departments. Further reports would be made on progress as decisions were taken.
Mr O Monareng (ANC) referred to the benefits listed in the report and asked for clarity on pensions. Dr Ledwaba replied that pensions and department benefits included a calculation of benefits during the time a person had served in a non-statutory force. General Mollo reported that the actuarial reports of the Treasury and his Department had not agreed. The Deputy Ministers of Finance and Defence would be meeting on 15 April, with a special committee of Chief Directors, to make recommendations so that a solution could be finalised by 28 April. Applicants entitled to pensions had been re-prioritised so that those facing hardship or pressing need would be attended to urgently. The database irregularities and inconsistencies were also being addressed.
The Chairperson referred to the section of the report dealing with "rightsizing" (or redundancy) and raised concerns on the wording of paragraph (i), referring to "independence" at service and divisional chief level. He pointed out that all redundancy agreements would have to be applied uniformly.
Brigadier General de Wit agreed that the paragraph could have been better worded. He explained that this paragraph was intended to clarify that although the Defence Force operated at divisional level, the divisional Chief would also report to the Chief of the Army on these issues. If possible, the Department would like to ensure that IMEM remained on a voluntary level.
The Chairperson stated that the drafting of a timetable was very important, and emphasis should rather be placed on retaining personnel for as long as it took to train replacements. He therefore asked also for a re-drafting of paragraph (c) to clarify the use of the word "compensate" and to emphasise the importance of retention where appropriate.
The Chairperson referred to a recent article in the Cape Times indicating that senior white army officials "faced the axe". Since the Department had indicated that rightsizing would be done at a voluntary level, he was most concerned that the Department of Defence had not sought to correct the report. He requested the policy issues to be taken up with the Minister.
The Chairperson stated that he would like to see a quantified progress report during the next quarterly presentation so that delivery levels this year and last year could be compared.
The Chairperson summarised the Committee’s forthcoming programme and expressed his concern that the Department’s liaison officer was not present during that part of the meeting. He stated that the Committee had been informed that the Department of Defence intended to present five Bills but that the Committee had not received those Bills. He considered it disgraceful that the Committee had not been informed that legislation already presented to Parliament had not been notified to the Committee. He would have liked the Secretariat of the Department to speak on how far the legislation had proceeded, and on the programme for discussions on procurement and the Defence budget, both of which were priority issues. Dr Koornhof suggested that the Department should perhaps spend an entire day briefing the Committee on all outstanding issues.
Mr J Rathebe (Legal Support Services) reported that the Special Defence Bill had been sent to Cabinet and tabled the previous week with the Speaker. The Armscor Bill had been delayed by Cabinet decision. The Constitutional Amendment Bill was now to be taken over by the Department of Justice. The Geneva Convention legislation had been held up pending the establishment of a task team to look at transformation of the military justice system. The Department wished this task team to finalise its work and make a recommendation to the Minister before tabling the Military Discipline Bill. He explained that when the Departments were required to give an indication of which Bills they intended to table, the list was compiled in the hope that the outstanding issues would have been resolved. All matters were being attended to and the delays were regretted.
The Chairperson asked for a written statement, before 17 May, of all proposed legislation, dates of tabling and anticipated dates for finalisation, so that the Committee could discuss the progress in a closed session. He pointed out that the delays had had effects upon the Committee’s own programme.
Committee report on Saldanha Military Academy visit
Professor Asmal reported on the oversight visit to the SA Military Academy at Saldanha. The academy was unique in being the meeting place of military and academic training for South Africa’s military officer corps. It was a unit of the SANDF, and also part of the University of Stellenbosch. Whilst the military training was a most important task, the shift in emphasis to participating in different forms of peacekeeping now required a special kind of treatment of the officer corps. At present the needs of the officer corps were not being met and reforms were necessary to rectify this.
He stated that it was important to understand that if anything went wrong the level of command in the military was responsible. Although one could delegate responsibility one could not delegate accountability. There was a need to educate officers accordingly. Our continental and global significance was also important and he hoped that the Academy would become the training centre for all officers of Africa. The international level added a new dimension to the role of the officer corps. There was a need for leadership with vision, sensitivity and flexibility.
He added that the training school needed to take into account that the previous authoritarian approach was outdated. More emphasis needed to be placed on educating a sensitive and intellectually stimulated officer corps. Transformation was also about embracing openness, transparency, equality and justice.
Given the history of South Africa, the officer corps was rooted in a particular history and philosophy. So its transformation was not only about figures but also about a new ethos, value system and the fundamental approach of the institution and its purpose. There needed to be a conscious and deliberate attempt to train officers to be sensitive to a range of cultural, social and psychological factors in relation to their subordinates.
The focus should be on developing the Academy into the academy of choice throughout Africa, thereby deepening the transformation process. In order to do this more resources needed to be made available. The Academy needed a process of enormous renewal. It should promote academic excellence and value-for-money training for talented young people throughout Africa.
The Academy was formerly a cog in the Apartheid wheel but has made progress in transformation. Representivity targets had not yet been met and some racial tension had accompanied the move towards this.
The general feeling was that the process of transformation was being accepted on all sides. However, problems had arisen. Lengthy delays in the filling of posts were unwarranted. Posts should be filled within three months and could not be frozen to achieve representivity. Freezing of posts demoralized both students and staff. He recommended a systematic programme of mentoring in order to achieve representivity in the long term. Proper career paths and lecturers’ salaries should not be determined by military rankings.
The Academy was underfunded and in poor physical condition. The library was in an appalling state with inadequate books and periodicals. These were vital to stimulate intellectual curiosity. The curriculum did not reflect the changing world and changing Africa. Whilst there was an impressive list of academic subjects there was insufficient grounding in the humanities. The constitutional order should have pride of place and it was important for officers to be aware that it was necessary to have civil control over defence.
Periodical visits of international speakers should be encouraged as these provided insight into the larger world. The Academy was a pivotal institution and in order to meet the needs of the officer corps reforms were necessary. He recommended a one-week visit to Canada by military staff since Canada was also a multicultural country and not involved in military operations abroad. The Military Academy needed urgent rehabilitation with involvement from management, the Department of Defence and the University of Stellenbosch.
Finally, Professor Asmal asked that the Committee adopt this report.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC) asked if it would be appropriate to state the core business of the military and also to address the funding model. The Military Academy had the potential to have the competitive edge over other institutions in that it was both a military and academic training institution. He agreed with the conclusions of the report and supported its adoption.
Professor Asmal agreed that a better funding model was required. He also added that Saldanha was not the easiest place to work and it was necessary to make the terms and conditions more attractive, especially for blacks. The cultural environment was overpoweringly of the past and a common culture needed to be established.
In time, he hoped that the Academy could become a degree awarding institution. The expansion would require deliberate care and attention and close work with the University of Stellenbosch. There was no reason why it could not have independent status sometime in the future.
He proposed a motion that the National Assembly should receive the report and debate it. He emphasised again the very important role that the Academy should play in the training of the officer corps.
The meeting was adjourned.
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