The Military Police Division (MPD) of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says it is struggling to provide full policing services due to structural and funding shortages.
In a presentation to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on Wednesday, Provost Marshal General Rear Admiral (JG) Mokgadi A Maphoto explained that he lacks the capacity and resources to deliver on his mandate to provide a Military Police Capability to the Department of Defence (DoD).
Personnel challenges are one challenge, as the personnel strength of the Military Police Division has a serious impact on service delivery: between 2013 and 2016, Military Police personnel were reduced from 1 655 to 1598 and subsequently capped at 1 590. At present, the total Military Police strength is 1 601, of which 1 462 are Military Police officials and the remaining 139 support personnel.
There are 207 Reserve Force Military Police members, but there is a lack of funding for Reserves to supplement/reinforce the policing function, and the MP Division is still experiencing problems in financing the force preparation of Reserves, the PCDMV heard.
“The current HR strength is insufficient to contribute to the National Imperatives of Government to reduce prevalent crime and corruption and fraud within the DoD,” Maphoto’s presentation explained. “The medical situation of the MPD members as well as the ageing work force of the MPD has a negative effect on the readiness of the MPD,” which is compounded by an insufficient Compensation of Employees (CoE) budget allocation to rejuvenate the Military Police and to fulfil the demands of internal and external deployments.
The current structure is not sufficient to provide effective MP-support to the DoD, since only nine of its 44 MP structures (stations) are providing a 24-hour service due to structural limitations, according to Maphoto.
At any given time, the MPD is providing 13 Military Police officials for external deployment and 141 for internal deployment (notably the border safeguarding Operation Corona). “The MPD remains under pressure from increasing obligations to the Joint Force Employment Requirements,” Maphoto’s presentation stated, as the SANDF is being called on in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and most recently KwaZulu-Natal.
Other challenges outlined to the PCDMV include insufficient support structures (human resources, logistics, IT etc.); prime mission equipment that is reaching the end of its life cycle; the unavailability of fuel, which negatively influences the execution of military police tasks; the long turn-around time for vehicle repairs; a lack of funding for Reserve training and utilisation; an insufficient budget to procure prime mission equipment; a shortage of armour-protected vehicles to provide operational Military Police support for joint operations; facilities that do not meet occupational health and safety standards; and poor physical security measures at some SANDF units.
In addition, there is insufficient office space and living accommodation available to accommodate the incoming VIP close protectors as well as for a possible new Sexual Offence Investigation Branch capability. There is also a lack of sufficient detention barracks to accommodate the increased number of inmates being sentenced by Legal Services Division.
Furthermore, budget constraints do not allow for the acquisition of new technology, such as drones, Kenwood radios, Morpho Touch fingerprint identification systems, gate scanners etc.
Maphoto called for the Military Police Division to be capacitated with the necessary resources and stated that in spite of challenges, it remains committed to reducing crime and enforcing discipline in the Department of Defence.
For the 2021/22 financial year, Military Police investigators were responsible for investigating 2 944 criminal cases, which translates to 23 cases per investigator. For that year, the Military Police received 1 420 cases and finalised 1 335.
Recent highlights recorded by the MPD include the establishment of a Sexual Offences Centre and support for the Ministerial Task Team on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse; the establishment of a paternity and maintenance mechanism for children born of deployed members of the SANDF outside the country (earning commendation from the United Nations); the establishment of a Virtual Military Court Capability; and the activation and operationalisation of an Electronic Case Management System.