DoD acknowledges succession planning not up to scratch

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“Challenges”, “grievances” and “shortcomings” were among three often used words in a presentation to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on succession planning in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

The presentation, by Vice Admiral Asiel Kubu, Chief Human Resource, Human Resource Division, Department of Defence (DoD), colloquially the military’s senior personnel practitioner, with input from the Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC), was critical of aspects relating to career advancement and promotion in the uniformed regular and reserve components of the SANDF.

The most recent – and still in effect – example of seemingly poor and possibly no succession planning is SA Navy (SAN) Chief Vice Admiral Mosiwa Hlongwane. He was due to exit office at the end of June. Plans were in place and a farewell parade at Martello sports ground announced with much of an edition of the official SAN publication given over to his time in office, a personal reminiscence and a cover photograph with his wife. Enquiries about Hlongwane’s successor were met with stony silence by SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) and it was only when he didn’t leave that SAN Public Relations tersely informed defenceWeb Hlongwane would remain Chief of the Navy “until further notice”.

Kubu’s presentation had it there were four areas relating to the high number of career management grievances. The “challenges” and “shortcomings” involve the “absence of a dedicated electronic system and programme for career management and succession planning”, different interpretations of career management processes and procedures, a failure to apply basic tentacles (sic) of career management process and, tellingly, a failure to balance personal circumstances with operational requirements.

A shortcoming at succession planning seminars was treating it as “highly classified or secret”. This, Kubu’s presentation had it, “defeated succession objectives”. Other shortcomings were in value judgement and the command/management prerogative and a lack of transparency resulting in more grievances.

As to what lies ahead for the important work of proper succession planning and career management in the SANDF, Kubu told the JSCD the force is “trying to reduce the inherit (sic) margin of error”. He pointed out the delay in “placement decisions” between 2018 and 2020 “might have created the impression there is no succession planning in the SANDF”.

Opposed to that, according to him, there is a succession planning process in the national defence force and it is part of a broader career management system. On the negative side the systems and processes in place are “not adequate for a macro and complex organisation such as the SANDF”.

Changing and improving succession planning and career management is ongoing in the DoD/SANDF, he said, with integration, updating and simplifying all integral components.

At present, there are 41 major generals/rear admirals in the SANDF, 174 brigadier generals/rear admirals (JG), and 841 colonels/captains (SAN) as well as 2 267 lieutenant colonels.