South Africa’s Defence Force Service Commission (DFSC) was given top level insight into a proposal to overhaul, rather than rejuvenate, the country’s Reserve Force.
Retired major general Keith Mokoape, Reserve Force Council (RFC) chair, in mid-October outlined a roadmap for the future reserve force system to support government’s national developmental agenda.
He told commissioners it was and will remain important for both the DFSC and the RFC to work toward improving conditions of service and service benefits of all in uniform, be they regular or Reserve Force.
The model for a “new” Reserve Force, he told commissioners, was presented to the Defence Reserve Board, chaired by Chief Defence Reserves, Major General Roy Andersen, and Thabang Makwetla, the deputy defence and military veterans minister. This is part of the overall consultative process being undertaken by the RFC Collateral, Utilities and Projects committee (CUP), the driver of the “new” Reserve Force model.
The concept of an overhauled Reserve Force goes back two years to the defence budget presented by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. A DFSC statement reports her saying: “I have directed the whole Reserve Force system must be overhauled. I expect the Reserve Force Council to make inputs in this regard”.
When a call for papers was made in August as a starting point for input on the proposed new model Reserve Force, the RFC said it would remain integral to the national security system and fulfil obligations as regards defence in a democracy.
At that time the RFC said the role of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has evolved since South Africa took on the mantle of democracy in 1994. This partially influenced 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 [of 1998]. 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’s CUP has set itself a 10 year timeline for the ambitious project.