Minuscule SANDF personnel growth over 20 years


In the 20 years 1998 to 2018, the largest loss of personnel was at the lowest level of the rank structure with more than 11 400 airmen, privates, riflemen and seamen exiting the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

This, along with lower ranked officers (lieutenant, sub-lieutenant, second lieutenant and ensign), was where the SANDF bled most as far as loss of personnel is concerned. Numbers in these four ranks went down by 1 403 from a 1998 level of more than 2 600, according to figures presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).

In 1998 the SANDF lowest rank numbered over twenty-eight thousand men and women in the air force, army, military health service and navy. Twenty years later that number shrunk to just over 16 700.

“Growth ranks” – if such a phrase can be used – are the top of the non-commissioned officer ranks. Here Class Two warrant officers grew in number from 2 310 to 2 878 while Class One warrant officers in the SANDF, who numbered 1 886 in 1998, increased to 2 525 in the 20 year period.

Another “growth rank” is colonel/captain (SAN) where the national defence force found itself with 853 officers of this rank in 2018, up from 680 in 1998.

While much has been said and written about the “top heavy” rank structure of the SANDF, the information tabled in the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) showed zero additions to the eight three-star generals/admirals and nine more major generals/rear admirals than the 31 in 1998. Brigadier generals in the force in 1998 numbered 143 and 20 years later increased to 170.

All ranks in the SANDF totalled 73 525 in 1998 and increased by a modest 319 over the 20 year period to stand at 73 844. Figures presented to the JSCD include civilian employees.