CSANDF “pride” in the Reserves diminished by manday cuts and fewer volunteers


The “immense pride” SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya, has in South Africa’s part-time soldiers would be worth more if similar words were put to those in charge of the national purse in search of – and receiving – more funding.

The country’s senior soldier acknowledged the efforts and inputs of Reserve Force soldiers and other mustering, mostly in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS), during the now over state of national disaster in latest edition of The Reserve Force Volunteer. The contribution made by the part-time component of the SANDF in keeping a lid on and helping to end last July’s violence was also acknowledged and rightfully so.

The “herogram” is offset by a reduction of 25% in the number of Reserve Force mandays revealed by Reserves Acting Chief, Brigadier General Zoleka Niyabo-Mana, in the same publication.

This will see less use of Reserves in ongoing deployments, including border protection and continental peacekeeping and whatever else lands up on the plate of the SANDF in the future.

What should also concern Maphwanya and Niyabo-Mana is the imminent decrease in the pool of potential Reserve Force volunteers.

This reality is confirmed by the SANDF decision to take military skills development (MSD) recruits into the ranks once every two years as from 2023 and not annually as done previously. MSD recruits are actively encouraged to join the Reserves once their two-year stint is complete. Number-wise it’s not many but additions to the ranks – especially those with military skills – should be high on the priority list.

Given the SANDF – in its entirety – says it operates on the one force concept with the Reserves integral to overall performance, the downgrade should not have been allowed to happen.

Less mandays make Reserve Force “employment”, to use a President Cyril Ramaphosa phrase, less attractive to those whose only source of income is a call-up.

It also dilutes even further the contribution of the SANDF to the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 with its lofty aims of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality.