Reserve Force Council: briefing

Defence

07 September 2006
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Meeting report

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE

JOINT DEFENCE STANDING COMMITTEE
8 September 2006
RESERVE FORCE COUNCIL: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Montsitsi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Reserve Force Council Constitution: Part1 & Part2
Reserve Force Council PowerPoint Presentation
Memorandum from Major General Andersen

SUMMARY
The Reserve Force Council briefed the Committee on the history and formation of the RFC as well as the role it currently played. The RFC stressed that despite its lack of command function it served an invaluable role as an advisory body. It was noted that the Minister of Defence was legally required to seek counsel from the RFC in related matters. The RFC was instituted at the behest of the Reserve Force Regiments in order to provide an organisation to safeguard the Reserve Forces’ future during the pre-1994 transition period.  The primary function was to ensure effective resource allocation and functioning of the Reserve Force, as well as the well-being of its members. Its achievements and challenges were outlined. Major challenges related to the low resource allocation, the slow development and transformation of the conventional reserve army and the lack of certainty on the numbers and structure of the reserve forces. Members asked for clarity on the structure and function, the number of women in senior posts, the line of reporting, the lack of Reserve Forces in Limpopo, recruitment drives, Commemoration medals, and the contribution of the Reserve Force to the regular forces.

MINUTES
Briefing on Structure and Purpose of the Reserve Force Council
Dr (Colonel) J L Job (Chairperson, Reserve Force Council ) briefed the Committee on the Reserve Force Council (RFC), a representative body of the SANDF Reserve Forces. The RFC was instituted at the behest of the Reserve Force Regiments in order to provide an organisation to safeguard the Reserve Forces’ future during the pre-1994 transition period in order to safeguard the future of the Apartheid era Reserve Force. However, it absorbed non-statutory Force (NSF) members as well and became a representative organisation. Its primary function was to promote and maintain the Reserve Force as an integral part of the Defence Force, to ensure effective resource allocation and functioning of the Reserve Force, and to safeguard the well being of its members. The RFC stressed that despite its lack of command function it served an invaluable role as an advisory body. It was noted that the Minister of Defence was legally required to seek counsel from the RFC in related matters. It was noted that if utilised correctly the Reserve Force greatly enhanced the Defence Force footprint across the country.

The RFC was an elected body with a constitution approved by the Minister and the Department of Defence (DoD). It collaborated widely with parliamentary committees and defence personnel. Its structure at national and regional levels was explained. Some of its achievements were listed. The challenges remained that the resource allocation was too low, that there was slow development and transformation of the army conventional reserve, and the exact structure and numbers of the reserve forces was yet undecided.

Dr Job described the budget and allocations. Its priorities in the short term included expansion into all 9 regions, and finalisation of the working of the associations of the RFC. In the longer term it looked to expand its contacts, to secure inputs in defence updates, to brief parliamentary committees more regularly and to form an African Reserve Force Confederation. Its most important goal was the development of new officers and junior leaders.

The role played by the RFC in initiating Project Phoenix and officer programmes was highlighted. Furthermore the smooth closure of the commandos was attributed to the RFC.

Discussion
Ms P Daniels (ANC) asked whether the RFC included all areas of service, what purpose the RFC served if it had no direct command over reserves, how many of the eight Reserve Force Brigadier Generals were women, how the demobilisation of NSF members and their reintegration was proceeding and how the RFC was consulted.

Dr Job replied that the RFC did speak for all wings of service. He added that despite the lack of direct command, the council was a relevant and helpful consultation and advisory body. The council’s role as a watchdog was stressed.

Maj-Gen R Andersen (Chief, Defence Reserves, RFC) stated that the RFC served as a policy advisor to the Chief of Army due to its harnessing of out of uniform expertise. It was acknowledged that no women held a post as Brigadier General in the Reserve Force.

Gen. R Modise (RFC) reiterated that the RFC held a vast reservoir of expertise that the government could make use of at no extra cost. He stated that the increasing membership was due to personal motivation and that the lack of highly placed female Reserve Force members was due to the fact that no women had yet risen to these ranks. He noted that NSF members were earmarked for reintegration.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) stressed the need for a conventional Reserve Force presentation and the analysis of specific problems facing Reserve Force units. He asked Dr Job whether the RFC presented a report and recommendations to the Minister of Defence. Dr Koornhof asked for clarity on the subject of the RFC’s policy of consultation, and on the timeframe for initiation. This latter question did not appear to have been answered.


Dr Job replied that whilst the RFC did not produce their own report, they contributed to the report made to the Minister of Defence.

Maj. Gen. Andersen stated that there was legislation in place to safeguard Reserve Force members from creditors and employers during call up. A proposed amendment to this Act would allow members to be called up in times of need, not only war. There was, however, a need to bring labour and business into the fold.

Mr L Diale (ANC) asked whether as a former Umkhonto we Sizwe cadre he would be required to undergo basic training if he joined the Reserve Force.

Dr Job suggested that it would be more appropriate for Mr Diale to join the RFC than the Reserve Force.

Mr K Mokoena (ANC) noted that after the end of conscription Force numbers declined, but that there was now an increase, and whether there was any particular mechanism used to create this increase. Mr Mokoena also asked why there was a lack of Reserve Force presence in Limpopo province.

In response to this Dr Job noted that there were always individuals willing to sign up. Maj. Gen. Andersen stated that direct of street recruitment had ended and that the two year National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) programme was used to populate the Reserve Force. Officers were being recruited from three sources: the Reserve Force, the NSDS and the University Reserve Training Unit. The problem in Limpopo was attributed to the history of the previous regime and it was acknowledged that this needed to be corrected.

Adv Z Madasa (ANC) asked how members of the active force could be members of the reserve force. He also expressed his hope that RFC initiatives were drawing in new volunteers.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) expressed concern about the gender and race balance in membership. The use of university recruiting drives was questioned as it left those out who cannot afford tertiary education. She highlighted the need for township recruiting drives at matric level.

Maj-Gen Andersen replied that university recruitment was only for leader group recruitment. He stated that RFC already went into the townships but the main recruiting strategy was the NSDS program.

Mr J Phungula (ANC) expressed his dismay that it was difficult to get members elected to the RFC from Natal owing to the fact that there were no colonels in the body of NSF members that joined up in Natal. He stated that all NSF officers should be utilised.

Ms Daniels was concerned about the impediments facing NSF members who were trying to join the Reserve Force. The purpose of Commemoration Medals was called into question.

Gen Modise stated that those who were demobilised received demobilisation numbers that were converted to force numbers upon application. He acknowledged that false force numbers were a problem.

Dr Job explained that Commemoration Medals were awarded to individuals who served in a component that was closed down.

Adv Madasa asked how the Reserve Force could rejuvenate the regional army.

Maj. Gen. Andersen replied that the NSDS program was designed to staff the Reserve Force, but that these recruits stayed in the Regular Force. The aim was to get the older elements into the Reserve Force. The Reserve Force’s most salient feature was its cost effectiveness.

The Chairperson thanked the RFC members for the presentation and apologised for the lapse in communication between the Committee and the RFC.  As South Africa’s role in peacekeeping increased the Reserve Forces would play an integral role in protecting South Africa whilst the Regular Forces were deployed. It was acknowledged that the issues concerning the Reserve Force need to be examined in greater detail and then presented to the Portfolio Committee on Defence.

The meeting adjourned.

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