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DEFENCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 September 2005
PROGRESS ON SANDF RESERVES, HUMAN RESOURCES AND QUARTERLY REPORT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS
Chairperson: Professor A Asmal (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department Progress Report on the Rejuvenation of the Army Conventional Reserve
SANDF Reserve Force Division Progress Report: Revitalisation and transformation of Conventional Reserves
Reserve Force Council Briefing to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on the Reserve Force
Department Human Resource Development Report on the Implementation of the Mobility/Exit Mechanism for staffmembers of the SA National Defence Force, as well as on related human resource matters
Feedback in Respect of Disposal of Excess Materiel including Ammunition in the Department of Defence
Department of Defence Human Resource Development Report
The Department briefed the Committee on the rejuvenation of the Conventional Reserve Forces strategy and budget, and the legal framework. The feeder system was the most challenging issue. They examined progress towards a rejuvenated, deployable Reserve Force, and highlighted its current status, leader group development, feeder systems, and deployment.
The Reserve Force Council then briefed the Committee on its role. Its functions were to support national defence and raise awareness and knowledge of the Reserve Force, as well as to lobby for legislation to protect volunteers against discrimination by employers.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) further reported on the implementation of the mobility exit mechanism (MEM). An overview of exit mechanisms from 1994 to 2005 was presented, and the implementation of the MEM from 2005 to 2008 was discussed. There was an update on staff demographic representivity, and the utilisation of Military Skills Development System members
The Chairperson explained that in March, the Committee had requested a clear commitment from the Department of Defence on the size, functions, strategy and transformation renewal of the Conventional Reserve Forces (CRF).
The Committee had recommended the following steps:
- implementation of a recruitment strategy,
- encouragement of employers to support voluntary RF members,
- sufficient annual funding and a well trained core leadership (sent on university and practical training programmes),
- the creation of appropriate structures within which the RF could operate, and
- the promotion of morale, cohesion and tradition.
A more comprehensive and systematic assessment on the role of the RF was needed. In the short term, the issue of the neglect of the conventional reserves should be given priority. With the phasing out of the commandos the question of civil defence needed consideration.
The Chairperson asked why the Secretary of Defence was not present. His presence was important as the discussions of the Portfolio Committee should to be fed back to the political structures. The Chairperson found his absence very unsatisfactory, and he requested the Secretary’s presence at the next meeting.
Lieutenant-General T Matanzima (SANDF) apologised for the Secretary’s absence and explained that he was involved in bilateral discussions with his Namibian counterpart.
The aim of the presentation was to update the Committee on the progress made in transforming the Reserve Force, and to respond to issues raised in March 2005. There had been a need to develop a holistic strategy based on benchmarking and this report would show the progress made in this regard.
The Chairperson asked why the Navy and Air Force were absent. Major-General Anderson (Chief: Defence Reserves) explained that because the March press release had focussed on the army, the response had been limited to that part of the armed forces.
SANDF briefing on Conventional Reserves
Major-General Anderson briefed the Committee on corporate issues relating to the Conventional Reserves. He discussed strategy, the budget, and the legal framework. Good progress had been made, and the strategy was inculcated in planning at all levels. A project officer had been sent overseas to study international benchmarking.
The budget was up 38%. There was a cost involved in the phasing out of the commandos, but once that had been done the R160 million budget for the Commandos could be shifted to the RF.
The legislation needed to be corrected and the target date was March 2006. The Moratorium Act No. 25 of 1963 existed but referred to the old Defence Force Act No. 44 of 1957. The general Regulations that applied to the Defence Act had not been updated. However, the chapter on Reserves had been rewritten and would be published by the end of the year.
Marketing of the RF was being done, focusing on youth involvement. There were also plans to extend the university training of members, and expand this from the Medical Services into the army and navy by January 2006.
The feeder system was the most challenging issue. At present recruitment was being done off the street, with training on a decentralised basis at various centres. The Chairperson asked about the Military Skills Development Service (MSDS). Major-General Anderson replied that it was a challenge. The current structure would only feed the RF in a meaningful way by 2007/2008. New recruits were at present "sticking" in the regular force and not coming through into the RF.
There were some bureaucratic obstacles, and a paper had been presented to the Chief of the Defence Force. He had instructed action to remove these. Money was a problem and there was a shortfall of about R98 million. A minimum of R150 million was required for the RF.
Major-General Mokoape (SANDF) and Brigadier-General G Kamfer (SANDF) briefed the Committee on the SA Army’s progress towards a rejuvenated deployable Reserve Force, its current status, leader group development, feeder systems, and deployments.
Colonel (Dr) G Hide (SAMHS) reported on the activities of the University Reserve Training Unit. It was important that cutting edge medical support was available and projects had been launched at some universities in Gauteng to recruit students. University Training was providing a powerful tool for further transformation in the SANDF. A partnership between universities and the SANDF was envisaged. There was a problem with some of the traditionally liberal universities who were still suspicious of the military.
The Chairperson observed that it was important to instil the idea that public service was a good thing. Colonel Hide replied that that was the most striking thing about the recruitment campaign – the youth wanted to give back to their communities.
Reserve Force Council briefing
Brigadier-General J Del Monte (Reserve Force Council) and Colonel T Sexwale (Reserve Force Council) briefed the Committee on the Reserve Force.. The Council’s role was to advise the Minister and the Portfolio Committee, as well as assisting in international benchmarking. Much had been learnt from overseas regarding commonalities. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was shifting its focus inwardly and had adopted the attitude that "charity begins at home" .The use of reserves in homeland defence was taking full stage. (The Chairperson pointed out a contradiction, as it had previously been stated that the RF should be the second line of defence.) Brigadier-General Del Monte said that the RF Council should debate the role of the RF. It was important to note that the question of homeland defence was no longer driven by the need to manage the consequences of international terrorism, but also other disasters.
Colonel Sexwale emphasised that the keyword for the Council was support of national defence. The mandate for the Council was derived from Section 47(1) of the Defence Act. It was a statutory body, and an unpaid voluntary organisation. Its functions were limited in terms of authority, but it played a role as an advisory body.
Its goals and functions were to raise awareness and knowledge of the RF, and to ensure its success. It aimed to educate employers and employees to support volunteers and allow participation in RF activities. It would also lobby for suitable legislation to protect volunteers against discrimination by employers, and promote tax relief for employers. The most important reason for its establishment was to galvanise national support, morale and pride for the armed forces. In times of peace people tended to forget the armed forces, and there was a tendency for the general population to see it is a place with no opportunities.
The foundation of domestic and foreign policy was premised on the resolution of international and national problems through peaceful negotiations. The failure to do this had terrible consequences, especially for civilians. The nation was nonchalant towards Defence Force peacekeeping efforts, and soldiers received little fanfare on their return from such missions. While soldiers defended the nation, the nation should support its defenders.
Colonel Sexwale pointed out the achievements of the Council to date. It had met with the Minister of Defence and had secured meetings with unions in order to gain their support for national defence. The Council had met with the SA Council of Churches and business organisations, and was involved in gaining media support by meeting with a group of editors to utilise their newspapers. There was a need to differentiate between militarism and the military.
Report on the implementation of the mobility/exit mechanism for SANDF staff members
Brigadier-General De Wit (SANDF Director: Human Resource Planning) briefed the Committee on the exit mechanism. He presented an overview of exit mechanisms from 1994 to 2005, and discussed the implementation of the MEM from 2005 to 2008. The service systems contract expiry was also examined, as well as an update on representivity, and the utilisation of Military Skills Development System members. He explained that for the post-2008 plan it was difficult to forecast the exact rightsizing results.
The MSDS had a planned intake for January 2006 of 4 300. It was intended to grow these intakes and thus feed the RF in a more sustainable way.
MEM was a voluntary mechanism linked with career management for those who had reached their career plateau. It was important to guard against a loss of scarce skills and expertise. The choice was with the individual to accept or reject a severance offer. Compulsory exits might be needed in the future.
Mr O Monareng (ANC) said he had no sense of the size of the army reserves. Brigadier-General Kamfer replied that the 1000 commandos being transferred into the RF had not been included in the figure given. Major-General Anderson said that for the target strength of the RF the emphasis lay with the army – two brigades, one motorised and one mechanised, as well as a parachute battalion and divisional troops. The Chief of the Defence Force was looking at a figure of 35 000. The army was planning to train about 12 000 members in a year.
The Chairperson commented on the fact that such a small number of the commandos had been transferred to the RF and police, despite the fact that they were highly trained. Brigadier-General Kamfer replied that this was because the RF was not taking anyone over the age of 40.
Dr G Koornhof (ANC) commented that the progress with the RF in six months was remarkable, and the attitude of students boded well for the country. He asked if the budget of R150 million was adequate to establish a viable RF. Major-General Anderson replied that the budget was a very broad estimate of what was needed.
Mr M Booi (ANC) asked about the constitutionality of international tours. Was it not important to look at our own Constitution first? Major-General Anderson replied that their starting point had been the Constitution and they had then benchmarked that against the international findings. Mr Monareng observed that there was a need to be patriotic and study the policy framework of one’s own country. It was dangerous to make international contact without this. Lieutenant-General Matanzima pointed out that international benchmarking would enrich discussions and help track international trends.
Mr M Sayedali-Shah (DA) asked what had happened to Project Shield, and what was the target number for a RF that would adequately serve the needs of the country. Major-General Anderson replied that Project Shield was alive and well, and used as a marketing tool by the Defence Force to support the RF. Its target audience had shifted to the regular force and employers. It was not focussing on potential recruits because the response was always so overwhelming.
Mr P Groenewald (FFP) said that he was disappointed that the promised discussion of the commandos had not materialised. He referred to rear area defences and pointed out that the removal of the commandos would create a vacuum in these areas. This was a contradiction of Section 202 of the Constitution. The message he had received from the presentation was that there was a desire to close down the commandos in order to allocate their money to the RF. Only 2 250 out of 50 000 commandos were being utilised in the RF. What was the Reserve Force Council doing to ensure homeland defence, and the promotion of the territorial reserves? Who would be responsible, when there were domestic problems, for assisting with these?
Brigadier-General Del Monte pointed out that blaming the RFC for the shifting of funds from the commandos was a case of mistaken identity. Regarding the participation of the RFC in discussions he said that there had initially been problems in gaining entrance to discussions but now there was better liaison through Major-General Anderson’s office.
The Chairperson asked what the role of the Council had been in the White Paper Review, and the closing down of the commandos. Brigadier-General Del Monte said that the RFC recognised that the closure of the commandos had been a political decision made by the Chief of the Defence Force. The RFC reserved the right to say that they would support any solution that would protect the South African public. In this area the RFC had some misgivings. The Defence Force had proceeded smoothly with the process but the performance of the SAPS left much to be desired, and gaps were perceived. The main problem seemed to be the absence of SAPS policy on the absorption of the commandos into the system. The policy was not clear, and SAPS functionaries attended discussions without clear-cut policies.
The Chairperson pointed out that the closure of the commandos was a policy decision of the government.
Lieutenant-General Matanzima said that he was not aware of any gaps; there were no areas not covered by either the military or the police. The Department of Defence had a clear programme – the commandos had to be closed down by 2009. There was a Committee with the SAPS and he was not aware of any discrepancies. The programme was running according to plan. Mr Groenewald asked Lieutenant-General Matanzima to explain the report of the operational status of the SANDF that stated that the removal of the commandos was creating a vacuum in some areas. Was the assurance from the police that they could do the job correctly? Was Lieutenant-General Matanzima just taking their word for it?
Major-General Anderson said he could not comment on the vacuum. But it was important to distinguish between the current situation and a potential future situation. Co-operation between the army and the police aimed to avoid that.
Mr Diale complained that Mr Groenewald continually brought up the issue of commandos. He had seen some of the mutilations and abuse that people had suffered at the hands of the commandos. He asked if Mr Groenewald could be stopped. The Chairperson replied that he knew the behaviour of the commandos in some areas was unacceptable, violent, and partisan. However, this was a Portfolio Committee, and people were permitted to ask questions. One should understand the background from which the question came.
Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked if there was co-ordination in the taking back of joint observation services to the units. Major-General Anderson replied that his staff had been involved in work groups, there was co-ordination and reserve groups had been catered for.
Mr L Diale asked what had motivated the RFC to form this structure and how big it was. Colonel Sexwale replied that the structure was statutory with about 14 members from business and interested individuals.
Mr M Booi (ANC) observed that recruitment was being managed. What opportunities were available for young people? Major-General Anderson replied that recruitment was being managed because there were more recruits than needed. They also had an obligation to the commandos to transfer those who met the correct age profile. The RF was not an employment agency.
Mr Koornhof asked if there was equity in pay and benefits for the RF. Major-General Anderson replied that essentially the benefits were the same. The RF was the lowest rung in the rank, and there were minor differences – leave was not equivalent, and subsistence and travel claims also differed. The Chief of the Defence Force had asked for a list of differences. This had been presented and was being examined.
Mr Sayedali-Shah asked if the process of rewriting the regulations was complete. Major-General Anderson replied that the regulations had been totally rewritten, and if accepted by the Minister, would be signed by the end of the year.
The Chairperson commented that South Africa was passing through an extraordinary phase, and needed to deal with the past carefully, and in a proper way. There was a need for support and for whites to come into the RF. The Portfolio Committee was committed to supporting the RF, and it was up to the Department to promote the RF. In disasters or civil emergencies the RF could play an important role as it worked under a command structure and was organised.
He added that the Portfolio Committee was unhappy about the funding of the RF. The budget was not adequate, and he felt it could not run efficiently without a minimum of R200 million.
Before peacekeeping and rear area defence was discussed, the matter of proper training should be examined. It was very important for the RF to be trained to deal with national emergencies. Lieutenant Gen Matanzima added that the SANDF was committed to the RF and the progress being made towards transformation.
Regarding the exit mechanism, the Chairperson pointed out that there was no compulsory exit mechanism and he denied newspaper reports that hundreds of officers had been dismissed on racial grounds.
Mr Monareng asked about the costing of the exit mechanism. Brigadier-General De Wit replied that this had been included in this year and next year’s budget. It was part of the guidelines and between 700 and 1000 members was expected to exit.
Mr Koornhof asked about the maintenance of expertise and planned offers. Where expertise would be lost would such members be included? Brigadier-General De Wit replied that if expertise were lost, that member would be asked to stay on and be involved in a mentoring programme. Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) asked how long a member could be kept on. Brigadier-General De Wit replied that it would not be indefinite and it was necessary to identify and skill people to take over.
The Chairperson pointed out that it was possible to resign. The exit mechanism was voluntary.
Mr Ntuli asked about reskilling of exiting members. How was this being done? Brigadier-General De Wit replied that the Service Corps supported any exiting member by securing opportunities in the labour market. There were grants available to reskill members.
Mr Booi commented that the solution was well planned but that communication needed to be planned so that it was seen in a positive light. The Chairperson added that it had been seen negatively. It had taken six months to present the exit mechanism and many problems could have been avoided if it had been done earlier.
Mr Monareng asked if there was an idea of who the Department wanted to replace, and what number of people were above a certain age. Mr Diale pointed out that the gender composition breakdown had not been done by race. Mr Sayedali-Shah asked if transformation in terms of race and gender was borne in mind when offering voluntary exit packages.
Brigadier-General De Wit replied that the MEM should not be seen in isolation but was embedded in the total process. As members exited so the intake increased. This contributed to rejuvenation. When targeting a number of factors were considered, not just one. He added that he would forward a full package of statistics broken down into race, gender, and rank.
The Chairperson asked the SA National Defence Union (SANDU), who was present as observers, why they planned to apply for an interdict to stop the implementation of the MEM.
Mr K van Niekerk (General Secretary of SANDU) replied that the whole process had been negotiated with SANDU to a certain point. A judge had ruled that all matters of mutual interest should be negotiated with the union. But for SANDU to be able to negotiate certain information was needed. The Department had failed to supply this. He did not think that there were approved post structures in the DOD. The figures were incorrect – the number of 76 000 was inaccurate untrue as only 58 000 posts had been filled. How could retrenchments take place when 18 000 posts were vacant?
The benefits in the document had not been negotiated with SANU. The DOD claimed it was a voluntary process but it was not. Referring to the 700 colonels, he said that many members had been removed from their posts, had no alternatives and were forced to take the exit mechanism. Many members were demoralised, unhappy, and unsure of their futures. It was the union’s duty to stop this.
The Chairperson asked what negotiation meant to SANDU. Did it mean a joint agreement, or negotiating in good faith? Mr van Niekerk replied that it meant negotiating in good faith, with an agreement signed by both parties as to how the process would be implemented. The Chairperson pointed out that no government department could bind the government by collective bargaining, especially in the Defence Force, where the fundamental principle was the defence of the country. There had been a finding by the Constitutional Court that members of the Defence Force were not ordinary employees. He asked if Mr van Niekerk was saying that the only way this could be implemented was with the union’s agreement. Mr van Niekerk affirmed this. The Chairperson replied that this was totally wrong and impermissible and that the Portfolio Committee was prepared to go to court to show that this violated constitutional principles.
Lieutenant-General Matanzima noted that approved structures were being continuously reviewed. He reiterated that the exit mechanism was voluntary. He explained that the colonels who had been removed from their posts were mainly white because there was a directive from Parliament for representivity. Mr van Niekerk was mixing representivity and the issue of the colonels.
Brigadier-General De Wit pointed out that on 15 August there were 76 000 regulars of which 14 830 were non-uniformed members. If that number was subtracted, there was a uniformed component of 62 000 members. As far as the organisational structure went, he had a copy of all posts and had furnished SANDU with a letter with tables per division, per rank, and a breakdown of the Department’s post structures.
The Chairperson pointed out that the Committee was clarifying issues and not negotiating them.
The Committee approved the exit plan. It was important to report to Parliament that it was vital for the rejuvenation of the SANDF and for the pursuit of the constitutional imperative to maintain an efficient and lively Defence Force. They were acting within the prerogatives of the employer in imposing this. Where there were issues with the Unions it was hoped that the Department would negotiate. He also hoped that the Treasury would be sympathetic.
The meeting was adjourned.
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