South African Navy Transformation Strategy

Defence

17 May 2007
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ENTERPRISES

JOINT COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE
18 May 2007
SOUTH AFRICAN NAVY TRANSFORMATION STRATEGY

Chairperson:
Mr S Montsitsi (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Transformation within the South African Navy 18 May 2007 presentation

SUMMARY

The South African Navy gave a presentation to the Committee concerning their transformation strategy. All aspects of the SAN were outlined including structure, weapons systems, their budget and human resources. The main focus was that of transforming it into a truly representative organisation and procedures were in place to achieve a true reflection of the demographics of the country. A major challenge was that of skills retention as there was competition from industry for skilled personnel. It could not compete in terms of salaries with private enterprises. The Chief of the South African Navy noted that they had a R497 million budgetary shortfall, but stressed that this requested amount would be a once-off lifeline that would put SAN finances on track.

The Committee praise the high calibre of the presentation. Questions were asked on further strategies to retain skilled personnel such as a more conducive working environment, transformation at middle management, replacing the SAS Drakensberg, the concept of patriotism, discipline, grievances and promotions.

MINUTES
Vice Admiral Refiloe Mudimu (Chief of the South African Navy) introduced the presentation on organisational transformation and discussed their vision of a truly representative navy. The presentation looked at transformation, of the force design, force structure, human resource component, the training system, the logistics system, policy infrastructure, naval finance as well as dispositional transformation (see document). Rear Admiral K Tshabalala (Director Fleet Human Resources – SAN), assisted by Comm J Moodley (SAN), went through the presentation.

Additional comments made by Admiral Mudimu and others included:
- Supported naval forces referred to the capability to perform repairs and recover assets on site.
- The corvettes would be in constant operation, not merely sitting at Simon’s Town. SAN was operating on the concept of a sea-based navy and these corvettes were constantly engaged in training or mock operations.
- The SAS Drakensberg spent four months at sea and that this ship was invaluable as a support vessel due to its constant operation. The SAS Protea was also cited as a pivotal system as a hydrographic ship and the only such one in Sub-Saharan Africa. The SAS Drakensberg was built locally as South Africa has the capacity to build such vessels.
- The Naval Station Durban was due for downsizing due to the retiring of the strike craft. It would be relocated from Salisbury Island to another smaller facility.
- The Navy Human Resources Turnaround Strategy encompassed the creation of internships. In terms of skills retention incentives were being reviewed for both combat and technical spheres. Targeted recruitment interventions had been focused on submarine-capable individuals. Final-year university students in required technical fields had been targeted with contracts. In trying to reflect demographics, they were currently reviewing Human Resources (HR) planning capabilities, education and training capabilities and administrative support capabilities. The MSD is a feeder for the CSS and the Reserve Concept. The Military Skills Development System (MSDS), is split into MSD1 and MSD2. The MSDs not given Core Service System (CSS) contracts were deployed as Reserves or sent to the Re-Deployment Agency. Reserves are offered bursaries in order to develop marketable skills.
- 25% of a ship’s complement must be composed of reserves. Employment was being sourced for un-deployed reservists.
- In terms of demographic composition, they could not rapidly phase out the high proportion of white officers.
- During apartheid, Indians in Durban and Coloureds in Cape Town were recruited to the detriment of Africans. They were changing this as representivity must not be shore-based.
- The naval dockyard would be handed over to Armscor (including approximately 400 mainly coloured workers) which would have an effect on the demographics.
- They had deployed a financial incentive scheme in order to retain scarce skills and this was succeeding.
- The training that was offered was in the process of being SETA accredited.
- The Navy Vessel Safety Agency process worked in order to contract jobs to industry.
- SAN Co-ordinating Mechanisms – Level 2 is headed by the Navy Command Council led by the Chief of the Navy, Level 3 is headed by the Fleet Board – both levels are subject to Gender Equity Committees.

Adm Mudimu reiterated that the scheme was working and expressed his pride in the determination of SAN members in bettering themselves. He stressed the 60 to 40 financial division split between staff and operations. The SAN required a once-off R497 million lifeline in terms of its budgetary shortfall. The biggest challenge faced was that of retention of skilled personnel as maritime industries were recruiting highly trained SAN personnel. There was the need for agreements with industry to mitigate the drain on skilled SAN personnel. He concluded that the SAN had made much progress and looked forward to succeeding in meeting their objectives.

Discussion

The Chairperson stated that the transformation from apartheid was difficult and commended SAN on its progress.

Dr G Koornhof (ANC) complimented Adm Mudimu on the knowledge and in-depth expertise of the delegation, as well as Adm Mudimu’s philosophy of giving back to the community. He asked about a replacement for the SAS Drakensberg as it was 30 years old. Were there any other strategies in order to retain skilled personnel?

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) supported Dr Koornhof’s statement and asked about planning for a SAS Drakensberg replacement.

R Adm H Bester (Flag Officer Fleet) answered the Drakensberg replacement question, saying that a LPHD system (Project Millennium) was being evaluated as an option and that it would provide a platform to reach out into Africa, significantly increasing the SAN’s expeditionary capability. If the go-ahead is given, it would take five years to realise a LPHD system and would entail two such vessels. This was their highest priority and it would significantly increase the support role of the SAN. The SAS Drakensberg was receiving a mid-life upgrade and it was possible to build a replacement locally which would take three years. The SAS Drakensberg would provide a support role in Project Millenium LPHD and its replacement was informed by that project.

Mr J Phungula (ANC) thanked Adm Mudimu and expressed his awareness of the fact that not many blacks were inducted into the SAN during transformation. He hoped that funds were being efficiently utilised.

Adm Mudimu stated that in terms of the budget the SAN had a R497 million shortfall, but stressed that this is a once off lifeline that will put SAN finances on par.

The Chairperson asked whether SAN was positive that it was not contributing to the qualified audit reports for the Department of Defence's annual financial statements.

Adm Mudimu replied that auditing had proven them to be in compliance.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) echoed the sentiments of her colleagues about the presentation. She said that in her interaction with the crew of the SAS Amatola, she found that they felt transformation was not taking place as middle management was still the same. She asked for the demographics around the appointment of warship commanders and the appointment of flag officers. Clarity was asked for on the matter of the awarding of projects and the closure of Salisbury Island. The question why skilled people were not being effectively retained was posed.

Adm Mudimu replied that skills retention was a strategic challenge facing the country as a whole, but that the working environment is a factor. The Non Statutory Forces (NSF) contribution was very little and that he was tasked with finding out why Africans had not been effectively recruited – the need to recruit individuals from the interior was also stated. They had engaged 60 Petty Officers for a training promotion programme. The division of the MSD into two streams was done in order to facilitate skills retention. They were not diminishing their capabilities in Durban as the frigates could be maintained at sea for long periods. As the strike craft were being phased out, their maintenance component in Durban was becoming redundant. The SAN was reducing its presence not its capability in the area. He noted the strategic importance of Durban but added that Richard’s Bay was even more strategic.

Adm Tshabalala added that she was very sceptical of individuals who said that transformation was not occurring as the navy had undeniably changed. The retention of skilled personnel was contingent upon good pay and budgetary constraints prevented this. Unless the budget was increased, this problem would remain. She stated that it was easier for individuals to join private companies as opposed to fighting for transformation within the SAN – as this is an ongoing process.

Adm Mudimu noted the challenges of the mindset and stated the need to inculcate patriotism.

Mr L Diale (ANC) complimented the delegation but stated his concerns about the budget being used to train individuals who subsequently left the SAN. He suggested that SAN facilities may not be conducive to a pleasant working environment and spoke of the need for an attractive environment in order to retain personnel.

Mr S Ntuli (ANC) questioned the dichotomy between staff and operational costs in terms of the budget and asked if it was working.

The Chairperson asked about the levels of patriotism, the promotion process, as well as the disciplinary process. He asked whether a recruit falling pregnant constituted an act of ill discipline and thus warranted grounds for dismissal. Further, he asked how long it took to attend to a person's grievance within the grievance process.

Adm Tshabalala stated that patriotism did not put bread on the table and that it was an individual choice, she acknowledged that South Africa was struggling with patriotism. She stated that only upon completion of the two year MSD, did a recruit become part of the SAN and that during that period they signed a contract agreeing not to fall pregnant. If a recruit did fall pregnant, they were removed from the programme as training was not possible due to the physical nature of certain aspects of it. The problem is that the training slot was then wasted as another recruit could not fill it once the programme was underway - hence the contract.

Rear Adm (JG) S Pillay stated that grievances were dealt with at the point of issue if possible but otherwise were dealt with as soon as possible. The Promotions and Staffing Board dealt with promotions, thus the Commanding Officer did not have sole control over the process – this was in order to provide an objective evaluation of promotion potential.

The Chairperson thanked the delegation for their efficient and in-depth presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.

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