Back when he was CArmy then Lieutenant General Solly Shoke recognised the national defence force’s fixed assets were not being adequately and timeously maintained and re-established the Works Regiment in the landward force.
Since then he moved on to become South Africa’s top soldier as SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief and his vision of the military maintaining and building its own facilities and other fixed assets has become the Defence Works Formation (DWF).
The formation was the subject of a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on progress made in “transferring infrastructure delivery functions” from Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to the Department of Defence (DoD). The effective date for the national defence force to become master of its own infrastructure is set for 1 April next year.
In addition to re-establishing its own infrastructure capability the DWF will also allow the SANDF to better support South Africans in the event of, for example, a natural disaster, the briefing said in part.
To date the DWF has trained just short of 900 artisans in various construction industry trades, including bricklaying, electrical and plumbing. The 894 military artisans are all Red Seal qualified, meaning they have completed a four year apprenticeship and successfully undergone all associated training.
This sees the SANDF with an in-house capability to undertake and execute less complex new construction, including maintenance and repairs to buildings.
When it comes to complex infrastructure and skills transfer, the DWF has an arrangement with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). This partnership saw the recent taking back into service of a high care ward at 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane.
A further boost to the DWF comes with its ability to draw on specialist skills in the Reserve Force as well as “absorbing” military skills development (MSD) volunteers with built environment qualifications into the formation. This, the presentation to the portfolio committee noted, will happen when the DWF structure and funding is finalised.