The ongoing havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the associated national state of disaster has reached as far as the SA National Defence Force’s major recruiting effort with no Military Skills Development (MSD) intake for 2021.
The MSD system annually sees around 1 700 to 2 000 volunteers who make it through a selection programme start a two-year stint in one of the four services of the SANDF.
At the end of the 24-month period a handful of these volunteers are fortunate enough to be offered short-term contracts in the regulars, the full-time force, with the remainder expected to put their military skills to use in the Reserve Force.
A defenceWeb enquiry as to the number of volunteers who will start basic military training in January received short shift from the Corporate Communications Directorate of the SANDF.
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi told this publication “due to COVID-19 pandemic the SANDF has taken a decision to cancel the Military Skills Development System programme for 2021”.
He did not provide any information on the number of young men and women who applied for MSD or, tellingly, whether they were all informed of the decision to cancel the 2021 MSD intake.
Traditionally, young South Africans who seemingly cannot find employment in the difficult economic times the country has languished in for the last few years, turned to the SANDF programme as a way of earning an income and developing a skillset. This skill may be rooted in the military and ensure a volunteer can, for example, be a trained infantry soldier, mortar man or artillery gunner or have another skill able to be exploited in civilian life. As examples, this could see army chefs and air force firefighters take up similar positions with civilian companies and local or provincial authorities. Those with “pure” military skills are welcome additions to Reserve Force regiments and units where their ability is rewarded with call-ups and a salary while in service.
Last January, 1 704 successful MSD volunteers reported for basic military training (BMT) at Air Force, Army, Military Health and Navy bases across the country. They represented just over 1.2% of the more than 133 000 MSD applications made to the national defence force’s human resources division for the limited intake an ever-decreasing defence budget allows.