Personnel overload at 3 SAI causes problems


3 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion in Kimberley is one of two premier training facilities for the SA Army Infantry Formation. The addition of three thousand SA Police Service (SAPS) trainees stretched the unit to breaking point with “horrific conditions” reported in a Parliamentary response.

In March the unit became home to over 400 military skills development (MSD) recruits for basic military training (BMT) before unit and mustering specific training as the next part of their two-year stint in uniform. At the same time they reported for duty, the unit also became home to thee thousand new SAPS recruits. This meant the unit effectively had over five thousand people “in residence” as it were.

That all was not well was first revealed when Major General Joseph Ledwaba, GOC Defence Works Formation, visited the unit this week.

He was, Warrant Officer Class Two Refilwe Nkoe reports, briefed by 3 SAI Officer Commanding Colonel Tisetso Sekgobela “about facilities regarding housing of about 3 000 police recruits and more than 400 military recruits”. Post the briefing, the two-star “went to inspect the facilities himself and his instructions were loud and clear to Regional Works Unit Northern Cape Officer Commanding, Colonel Odwa Mdleleni. Regional Works Unit is to utilise all equipment and processes at their disposal to repair facilities needed as a matter of urgency”.

Ledwaba’s visit came in the same week national police commissioner General Fannie Masemola confirmed, in response to a Parliamentary question the “horrific conditions” – since seemingly remedied – police trainees had to endure. They reportedly slept without blankets, pillows or mattresses at the SA Army Infantry Formation base as well as having only cold water to shower and bread to “compensate for lack of food” according to The Sowetan.

The placement of police trainees at a military base is reportedly due to the large number of new additions to the SAPS personnel register. This increase is in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he said 12 000 additional SAPS personnel would be recruited and trained to up police capacity. This is additional to three thousand posts advertised in 2021/22. According to the Johannesburg daily the SAPS recruitment efforts means it has to train ten thousand in the 2022/23 financial year.

SAPS reportedly has a training capacity of seven thousand at its academies where the basic police development learning programme is present and more facilities including messes, classrooms, sleeping accommodation and shooting ranges was needed. According to The Sowetan, Masemola “requested permission from the SANDF to use their facilities, which are now accommodating 3 000 new police recruits and trainers”.

South Africa’s top cop is further reported as saying when trainees and trainers arrived at 3 SAI there were “multiple complaints which required the intervention of SAPS and the SANDF”.

The “multiple complaints” – again now reportedly remedied – ranged from food, crockery and cutlery shortages, insufficient and lacking ablution and laundry facilities.

The Sowetan stated “the rate of addressing defects is still not satisfactory” adding “the SANDF is attending” to them. One is handing kitchen and mess management to SAPS, putting additional food serving stations in place and providing police trainees with mattresses, blankets, pillows, ironing boards and curtains.