South Africa’s part-time soldiers are an essential component of the South African military machine and, as such, to the country’s overall security including, among others, territorial sovereignty.
From being a Citizen Force which morphed into a Reserve Force, many challenges and changes including name changes have come and gone but the men and women who volunteer for part-time military service remain integral to the overall national defence effort and establishment.
Acknowledgement of this, plus the need to make the Reserve Force an even more vital component of the national security system and fulfil obligations as regards defence in a democracy, has seen the Reserve Force Council (RFC) embark on an ambitious project for an overhauled rather than a rejuvenated Reserve Force.
The RFC is chaired by retired major general Keith Mokoape with stewardship of the Collateral, Utilities and Projects committee (CUP) in the hands of John Del Monte, a retired one-star general. Other members are Uys van der Westhuijzen, Godfrey Giles and Major David Katz.
The starting point is a call for papers pitched at a strategic level (2020 to 2035) “for our South African conditions” according to the RFC.
The RFC deadline for submission of details, personal and including academic and other achievements as well as an indication of defence, military and/or security involvement, is end September this year. Following evaluation by the RFC CUP committee a comprehensive document detailing submission requirements will be forwarded to authors of selected papers.
The role of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has evolved since the advent of democratic South Africa in 1994, the RFC said by way of explaining its thinking on a “new Reserve Force”.
“Two Defence Reviews, based on differing perceived threat scenarios, attempted to define the SANDF role in defending South Africa’s territorial integrity and projecting peace in Africa. The Reviews, orientated more to an external role, catered for equipment and doctrine best suited to peace support, anti-piracy and rescue operations and missions. The 2015 Defence Review highlights some internal roles.
“South Africa has landward obligations in terms of its defence requirements, commitments to Africa and the wider international community. These obligations are essential to the political well-being of the country as well as South Africa’s status as a regional power and honest international broker.
“The SANDF finds itself in an increasingly difficult predicament when it comes to fulfilling its domestic, regional and international obligations.”
“Equipment procurement favoured the air force and navy, leaving the army aside in the controversial arms purchases. The army, despite the mandate defined in the 1998 Defence Review and concomitant White Paper on Defence, failed to purchase new or maintain ageing equipment. Cost of replacement is prohibitive with a declining defence budget. The army remains burdened with equipment produced for the Border conflict (1975–1989) and an outmoded doctrine best suited to combat a low-level insurgency war.
“There is a view that the current Reserve Force system owes its design to a system no longer valid. A top-heavy, aging command and control system burdens effectiveness. Those seeking service beyond regular retirement age use the Reserves as a vehicle to extend tenure. The Reserve Force finds itself with little funding, an outmoded structure and doctrine and obsolete equipment, ill-suited to its defined role in the national defence force,” the Council said.
The RFC research paper on the future role of the Reserve Force in the SANDF is planned to lead to a symposium.
“Papers should take cognisance of challenging financial restraints facing South Africa as well as SANDF obligations. The RFC will consult widely and deeply with interested parties, both locally and internationally with an interest in the future of the SANDF Reserve. The process will produce a selection of papers which the RFC will publish after participants present papers at a symposium.
“The final product will be a combined research paper for presentation to the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans,” the RFC said adding it met with Deputy Defence Minister Thabang Makwetla on issues affecting the Reserve Force.
The RFC wants meticulously researched submissions offering unique perspectives and insights into the future form and role of the Reserve Force as an integral component of the SANDF and an essential vehicle driving civil-military relations (CMR). The Reserve Force includes air, land and maritime components as well as a medical one. The RFC welcomes papers dealing with specific issues pertaining to the various services provided by the Reserves.
The RFC encourages solution-based papers over those dwelling on historical issues and legacies it said in its initial appeal for submissions.
Interested parties should contact the RFC via [email protected] for author guidelines.