Recruiting woes


New defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu has a lot on her plate, but something that clearly needs attention is the recruiting office. The bulk of article comments received are from desperate recruits who believe defenceWeb can provide them feedback on their applications. defenceWeb is not an agency of the Department of Defence and can therefore not help these distressed people, but Sisulu can.

The main problem seems to be volume: there are literally thousands of applications for every available post. Answering each query would likely require an army of clerks and a forest`s worth of paper. Clearly not the way to go… But considering the prevalence of mobile phones –and the success Home Affairs has had with “track and trace” for passports, the time for some office automation may have come.

Sisulu may want to “copy cat” that and bring some certainty to potential recruits where they stand. A contact centre to explain to anxious work-seekers why they have not made the cut – for example because their paperwork is incomplete – may also help.


The illusion of permanent employment

Another trend discernable in comments is that an increasing number of Military Skills Development System (MSDS) “graduates” that seemingly feel hard done by because they were demobilised at the end of their two year service period.

The development runs parallel to a campaign by former Cape Corps servicemen who claim they are entitled to incorporation into the South African National Defence Force in the same way as other statutory and non-statutory forces were in 1994.

Both appear to examples of people wilfully misinterpreting the terms of their service and deliberately creating a sense of victimhood around themselves in order to claim permanent employment or “back pay” as compensation.

In the 1970s and 1980s Cape Corps servicemen volunteered for two years of fulltime paid but non-pensionable military service. This was followed by part-time service in the reserves. The MSDS has similar terms. Times are tough and some are now seeking to pervert the system into an avenue to fulltime employment. That must be nipped in the bud.

Similarly, some police reservists and military reserves are attempting to create a similar entitlement for themselves. This too, cannot be allowed.               


Pay scales

Other comments involve pay-scales, which many, including the SA National Defence Force Union`s Pikkie Greeff say are wrong. Some say it is too little and others say it is more than they are earning. The scales, as indicated in the fact file, were provided by the Department of Public Service and Administration. I assume they would know what civil servants and the military are paid. That is what they are paid for.

Greeff notes that senior civil servants – the senior management service (SMS) band – recently received a decent raise and now earn R5000 per month more. He notes this is more than a private soldier or a seaman earns in a month.   

The SMS seeks to pay senior civil servants a “market related” salary and its proponents say it protects government against the poaching of its best in environment characterized by skills shortages. In the Department of Defence all managers director and above (“level 13”) and all generals as well as admirals fall into this band. “Thus we are a Defence Force with generals earning luxury salaries whilst the sharp-side is going hungry. A recipe for disaster…” Greef says.

I share the concern. Even a brief look shows a huge, indefensible, gulf in earnings between a colonel (middle management service, “level 12”) and a brigadier general/rear admiral (junior grade). The ocean between a rifleman or seaman and a colonel or general speaks for itself.

The debate aside whether soldiering is an occupation or a calling – “sak” versus “saak” or “cash” versus “cause” – our soldiers, airmen, sailors and medics deserve a salary that allows them to meet their expenses with a bit surplus. I speak under correction, but the starting salary of a truck driver is now R6000.       

Meanwhile, the President earns R2 107 224 per year, a cabinet minister R1 612 053, a Member of Parliament R714 618 – before allowances and expenses.

Peacekeeping conference

The early bird window on the conference is closing… Book today to ask some high placed speakers interesting questions – at a give-away price.