Service Corps:Status Report

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Defence and Military Veterans

05 June 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

5 June 2001

Chairperson: Ms T Modise

Relevant Documents:
Service Corps Strategic Way Forward
A Staff Paper on a Contribution of the SANDF Through the Service Brigade" (1994)

Service Corps presented a report on their projects, issues and struggles, as a follow-up to the meeting held on 22 May 2001.A strategic plan outlining the path that the Service Corps was currently taking was discussed.

Some Committee members commented on the small number of people that the Corps was affecting with the large amount of funding received. Only with a solid knowledge of the past and present of the organisation would they be able to truly assist with its progress in the future.

Chairperson Modise explained that they were having a second briefing on the Service Corps because the report presented on 22 May 2001 did not address the requests of the Committee. It had focused on possible trends and the future of the Corps as opposed to the current status of it.

History and Purpose of the Service Corps
General A Masondo, Chief of the Service Corps presented an overview of the history of the Service Corps.The South African Service Corps (previously called the Service Brigade) has been in existence for several decades now. It began as a successful method of assisting impoverished white soldiers in the Depression of the 1930s. As the SANDF became reintegrated following Apartheid, the focus of the Corps shifted to aiding the unskilled guerilla soldiers from various liberation movements like the MK and APLA.

There is no degree required to join the Service Corps' programs and all ages are welcome. Those who typically join are soldiers who are unfit to join the regular military forces. These include soldiers scoring 3 or less out of 9 on a military-given proficiency exam, those over 65 years old, and those who are physically or psychologically unfit.

With these people not being allowed to join the military, the question arises of what exactly to do with them. There is a great risk that those turned away from the military could decide to enter into a lifestyle of crime, particularly if they have been trained in warfare combined with a sense of rejection. The Service Corps is meant to be a response to this possibility.

The purpose of the Service Corps is not simply to train or retrain ex-soldiers. It is designed to reintegrate them into society as active contributing participants. The focus has, since 1998, also come to include assistance in finding jobs for participants.

The leadership of the Service Corps, according to Masondo, has played quite a role in shaping its focus and determining its success. Mr L Maloi helped establish the programme in 1995 as a method of aiding the transition to an integrated army. At that time, the programme used quite a large amount of funds to establish itself and begin various projects.

When Mr Swanepoel took over in 1996, he narrowed the scope of the programme to be strictly a retraining programme, which Masondo felt severely hampered the progress of the Corps. He expressed that Swanepoel had spent funds very inefficiently and the Service Corps' potential went untapped. The Auditor General at the time ran an investigation and found many problems within the organization.

When Masondo took over in 1998, he wanted to gear the programme more toward training the untrained in all sectors. Masondo, along with the Minister of Defence at the time, desired to expand the programme to include youth and unemployed people from the public sector. Unlike Swanepoel, he believed that reintegration did not simply equal getting a job. It meant gaining skills that would be able to sustain and enrich one's life.

Current Strategic Paths of the Service Corps
Masondo then began his presentation on the current strategies the Service Corps was using to achieve its set goals and mandates. The strategy followed two paths. One was to continue building up Swanepoel's idea of the Service Corps as a resettlement agent.

The other, a more innovative one, was to transform the Service Corps into a national asset that aids in skills development across the board of the general population. He particularly wants to seek those who failed economically after leaving the army. Very useful skills like administrative abilities and computer literacy would be a major component of the training programmes.

To achieve the second strategic objective, Masondo and the Service Corps had to immediately begin securing a large amount of funding. He began by meeting with ex-members of the MK and APLA liberation forces. The MK had some good funding sources from the United Kingdom's Airborne Trust programme, but was not using much of those funds to help out MK veterans. Masondo approached the Airborne Trust and was able to access some of their funding for the Service Corps.

Masondo's vision is to see the Service Corps evolve into some kind of Centre of Skills Development as a national organization, but to remain housed in the Department of Defence. Cooperation and communication of such organizations like the Youth Commission would be relied on. Organisations and departments could send their people to the Corps to be trained and would have to pay for their own consumption costs. One example Masondo gave was the educating of parolees in entrepreneurial skills.

But as Masondo was getting into the details of the future migration of the project, the Chairperson cut him off and reminded him to stick to the current status report. She asked him why the Department of Labour was not originally involved in the planning Committee of Ministers. Masondo replied that he did not know why, but it did not make much of a difference because the Committee of Ministers did not contribute any advice in planning the Corps and was quite superfluous.

The Corps broadened its vision statement in 2000. It reads, "The Service Corps is a skill enhancement institution striving to enable eligible persons, who express such a desire, to become empowered, employable and self-sustainable in society."

At the same time, they narrowed their mission statement, or their business concept. It reads: "In pursuit of its purpose to deliver marketable clients to prospective employers in the Service Corps will be directed to enhance the successful reintegration of its clients into society . . . The uniquely packaged holistic approach to skills enhancement will be provided to clients in a process comprising of services."

He noted that though the rest of the Department of Defence was downsizing in number, the Service Corps ought to be focused on increasing its size and scope. Congress is currently in the process of amending the antiquated Mandate that had been withdrawn in November 2000.

The Corps' critical success factors were described as the following:
1)A confirmed and analysed Service Corps Mandate
2)An approved Service Corps structure
3)An appropriately staffed Service Corps structure

The clients of the Service Corps can be split into four categories:
1)NSF members (ex-MK/APLA members that were not integrated into the SANDF)
2)Natural Attrition Groups (those who took packages, pensioners, medically unfit, resignations, and expired contracts)
3)Exit Management Framework (employer-initiated retrenchments)
4)Clients outside the SANDF (the public and private National Asset strategy)

Mr J Mashimbye (ANC) suggested that the Service Corps look to increase the numbers of clients from the second category. Masondo claimed that the Department of Defence was not bringing its people to the Corps and taking advantage of its services. There has been big communication gaps between the Corps and the Chief of Separation and South African Medical Services.

However, there were some positive results as well such as Attridgeville College where the Service Corps played a role in educating skills such as appliance repair and computer repair. In fact, one woman in the programme now owns her own PC repair business. In the Thaba Tshwane Community Development Center, the youngest participant (all of which were female spouses of soldiers), was 55 years old.

Over 400 people have been discharged from the programme for various reasons and this was something they were trying to curb. The Auditor General has been putting pressure on the Service Corps to make use of the large amounts of funding, both governmental and private, that it has received. Masondo hopes that the worth of the Service Corps will show within the next two years.

He felt that Mr Liebenberg of the Department of Defence was not portraying an accurate depiction of the Service Corps and should not have spoken on behalf of Masondo previously. There seemed to be tension between these two main figures in the Department of Defence.

The Chairperson began the period of discussion by commenting that the Service Corps ought to restrict its use of consultants because they are inefficient and a waste of money. She preferred to hear the news straight from the primary source.

Mr M Mncwango (IFP) asked how the Committee could assist in attracting more Category 2 people into the Corps. Were there Category 2 people in other regions that had access to the Centre for Advancement Training.

Masondo replied that all regions have access to programmes of the Corps. If their particular regions offer sufficient programmes, then the people remain there. If not, then they are sent to the Centre for Advancement Training where the capacity is more fitting. If the Committee desires to aid the Service Corps in locating participants, it should report as many discharged or retrenched people that are seeking training to them. The Committee could make people more aware of the different categories of people that the Service Corps covers.

Mr R Jankielsohn (DP) commented that there are plenty of outside private groups that are doing a more thorough job than the Service Corps. Corps' "Key Successes" were bureaucratic in nature and had very little actual output. He estimated that the Corps was spending almost R20,000 per participant. It might be more efficient to aid the private sector and give out opportunity vouchers to those that wish to be retrained.

Masondo replied that the Service Corps already utilises the services of outside providers. However, those outside providers can not handle situations in which problems arise unless they have the bail-out ability of the SANDF. Vouchers for assistance would create zero accountability for service providers to give quality training. They would simply take people's money and leave the unemployment problem in South Africa untouched. The problem was not as simple as Jankielsohn was making it out to be. The only real responsibility for outside providers was to donate money to the state-run programme.

Dr M Mogaba (PAC) noted that Modase was seemingly fighting a lone battle with no aid from the Ministry.

Mr L Ncgulu (ANC) suggested that the Committee could help in finding discharged soldiers who could be brought back to the Service Corps to gain training, particularly those from the former liberation movements. Why were people in Category 1 decreasing but overall discharges were still high.? The restrictive Mandate created only a 5% success rate and that this would affect any future plans to migrate toward a new strategy. He stated that he wanted more information on the regional offices to pass along to the people.

Masondo agreed with what the MP was saying. But he said that it was very difficult to get the money for the Category 1 people. Veteran groups do have sources and he hoped with the Service Corps, they would be able to utilise them efficiently. Maloi had spent a lot of money in establishing the Service Corps and Swanepoel had created a period of uncertainty. He stated that Swanepoel was only a junior general dealing with all former SANDF member that were legacies of the Apartheid regime. Masondo claimed that that group was ignorant to the needs of an integrated military.

Adv Z Madasa (ACDP) suggested that the Service Corps gear their programmes more toward self-sustainability or entrepreneurship training. How was the HIV/AIDS epidemic was affecting the functioning of the Service Corps? He extended yet another helping hand out to the Service Corps by saying that the declining outputs had to be rescued quickly. Finally, he asked what the legal framework would be for the migration plans of the programme. Madasa said he favoured the parastatal/Section 21 approach because it allows for a balance of private and public powers to assist in training.

Masondo stated that entrepreneurship is already a focus of the Service Corps. For example, a group of construction workers was encouraged to consolidate efforts and create a private subcontracting firm. He told Madasa that SAMS would be a better resource on AIDS information in the Service Corps.

Masondo was happy that the Committee was critical in their approach but still committed to assisting the Service Corps to grow. Anyu critiques of his programme would not be taken personally, that it is not a matter of rank or prestige, but a matter of helping people straighten out their lives.

He stated that the Service Corps does not have the preparation to become a parastatal or a Section 21 business. He wants the Corps to grow as a state-sponsored organisation that only relies on the private sector for occasional funding support.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) asked if the other schools in the Corps were accredited institutions. Also, he wanted to know what other nations besides Britain have done to assist Veterans and ex-military personnel in society reintegration.

Masondo said that they were attempting to gain accreditation for their institutions. Attridgeville College was already accredited. The Corps has had two prior meetings with the Americans who offered good advice on dealing with veterans. The Germans had also shared information with them on how to train ex-soldiers.

Mrs Z Kota (ANC) urged that the Ministry of Defence must remain in control of the Service Corps programme. Did the multiple languages of South Africa created difficulty in training soldiers?

Masondo pointed out that the Client and Employment Services section was in dire need of multi-lingual training. Too often in the old SANDF system, cultural differences were not taken into consideration during training and service.

Jankielsohn commented that the Committee was gaining much more knowledge and sensitivity after each briefing by the Service Corps. People's lives were, indeed, at stake, however, so was millions of Rands. What would be the best way of measuring the Corps' output?

Masondo replied that output could be interpreted in quantity or in quality. The Committee should look beyond the black and white figures of the statistics charts. The Treasury, which only looks at Rand input and service output, was being too cruel. The South African people would lose much more if the programme ended. The Committee could judge the general on whether or not he has corrected the errors of the past. He should be evaluated on whether or not he has made provisions for the future of the Corps. This could not accurately be measured until he has left the Corps.

The Chairperson proposed that the Committee hold another meeting with the Service Corps to discuss its future migration plans. The Corps is having difficulty matching its output with its input, but at least now, they are less ignorant of the factors contributing to this imbalance.

The meeting was adjourned.


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