SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha believes the contribution of part-time soldiers to the overall activities, operations and taskings of the landward force should be justified by returning “the dignity of the SA Army Reserve to its rightful glory”.
As one example the three-star general cites the role of the Reserves in Operation Notlela, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contribution to the national state of disaster and its associated restrictions and regulations imposed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mbatha uses the Reserve Force Volunteer publication to point out he was “moved by the challenging conditions under which many Reserve soldiers serve and the daily struggle, in this time of high unemployment, for them to provide for their families”. His observation follows a tour of all 67 SA Army Reserve units.
The injunction to better the lot of part-time soldiers will, according to him, be via a multi-pronged approach.
“Firstly, we need to rapidly improve conditions under which the Reserves operate and provide them equal opportunities. An example is attendance of courses.
“We also need to provide adequate funding for continuation training to maintain combat readiness.
“Thirdly, we need to get behind the project to revise and ‘South Africanise’ the total concept of the Army Reserve, aligned with the Minister’s Indaba and C SANDF’s instruction to Services to update their Reserve Force service systems.
“This includes a broader mandate for the Army Reserve and new roles and functions in the medium term. We also recognise the SA Army Reserve must transform and embrace a broad and common culture based on the greatest degree of inclusiveness.
“Finally, the SA Army embraces C SANDF Project Koba-Tlala, in conjunction with Chief Defence Reserves and Defence Reserve provincial offices and we must exploit this opportunity to retrain and reskill Reserve Force members so their dignity is restored and they are further empowered to access gainful employment in the formal economy,” he writes.