The SA Army Reserve initiative to put at least some of the fresh produce supplied to military messes via Project Koba-Tlala moves ahead quietly, establishing relationships and building momentum for decentralised procurement.
The below-the-radar approach adopted by Army Reserves has not gone unnoticed in the higher echelons of government. This earned the project, which carries the status of a Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) one, approval from Finance Minister Tito Mboweni. He referred to Koba-Tlala as “an example of improving State efficiency” during his October medium-term budget policy statement.
Providing background, Koba-Tlala project officer Lieutenant Colonel Philip Coetzer writes in a recent edition of The Reserve Force Volunteer government’s medium-term strategic framework and its change agenda commit President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration to constructing a democratic developmental state capable of addressing national challenges, including economic growth, unemployment, inequality, safety and security, education, and poverty.
“Recent State of the Nation addresses (SONAs) highlighted the critical role of national departments in contributing to job creation for youth, economic transformation and small-business as well as co-operative and township enterprises.
“Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula approved a concept whereby the SANDF will use its footprint in rural and semi-rural areas in terms of units, land and spending of resources in conjunction with local communities, rural towns, provincial governments and other stakeholders to augment rural developmental initiatives. This can be done by providing nodal points or hubs from which community engagement, stakeholder co-ordination and structural requirement to creating viable sustainable local economies can happen.”
Project Koba-Tlala sees what Coetzer terms the “inherent collateral utility” of the national defence force to contribute positively to the national agenda.
“Food security is vital in South Africa and Project Koba-Tlala aims to assist in developing vibrant, equitable, sustainable rural communities contributing to food security. Further steps, in the form of co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) on national and provincial levels, have been taken.
“The aim of the DALRRD/ Department of Defence (DoD) relationship is to establish a mutually beneficial one to encourage co-operation in achieving the National Development Plan (NDP) goal of fighting the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty; ensuring access to nutritious food and promoting safety and security.”
This has seen the national defence force, more particularly its Army Reserves buy into the DALRRD agri-park system.
“The system is made up of agricultural production, processing, logistics, marketing, training and extension services and located in a district municipality. As a network, it enables market-driven combination and integration of agricultural activities and rural transformation services.”
Added to this, Koba-Tlala uses the SANDF footprint in rural and semi-rural areas to effect decentralised procurement. This sees military units more in the form of Reserve Force units eventually embedded in rural local economies. When not called-up part-time soldiers will find work at these food production locations.
Coetzer points out both the SANDF and DoD, as enablers of Koba-Tlala, took “a deliberate decision” to decentralise procurement of goods and services to “the lowest practical level”.
The SA Army Support Base in Mpumalanga capital, Mbombela, and its Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, are two examples where the average percentage buying from SMMEs (small, medium and micro-sized enterprises) is above half. These suppliers meet all prescribed SANDF/DoD policies and conditions.
“A target of 30% has been set for purchases from SMMEs with evidence available that purchases by various military entities are higher,” Coetzer writes adding “this is proof of further Project Koba-Tlala success”.