An SA National Defence Force (SANDF) attitude survey shows “support for expanded defence roles in line with the 2015 Defence Review”.
The survey is the third of its kind executed jointly by Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). The council’s social attitudes survey infrastructure is extensively utilised in the survey.
Concluding notes on the latest survey indicate “a sense of sustained public confidence” in the SANDF notwithstanding “a moderate decline” in the South African military observed in the previous survey.
“Analysis suggests the observed downward trend in pride, trust and performance ratings relative to previous surveys is partly attributable to changing public perceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This may reflect views on the deployment of the SANDF to assist police in enforcing lockdown regulations and contact with the SANDF during 2020,” the conclusion states adding it “points to sensitivities about SANDF involvement in civic affairs”.
“Knowledge and of exposure to the SANDF emerge as factors associated with positive overall evaluations. Yet, knowledge of and direct exposure to the national defence force are circumscribed.”
In summary there is scope for the SANDF to improve its civic engagement outreach efforts.
On the impact of COVID-19 it is noted that 40% of surveying was done prior to the national lockdown announced on 27 March last year with the balance completed between November and February. This allowed testing for a change in attitudes before and during lockdown.
“Results show the public became more critical on most survey indicators including awareness, pride, trust, performance evaluation and transformation attitudes.”
The largest impacts measured were on performance ratings which included professionalism, discipline, effectiveness and fairness.
The top ranked perceived role of the SANDF among respondents was “assisting police uphold law and order”. This was followed by “helping other government departments in times of disaster or emergency” with border protection and safeguarding coming in third.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents see the SANDF “doing a good job relative to expected roles” with 10% rating the national military machine “poor”.