Employment appears to be a point of commonality between SA Police Service (SAPS) Reservists and the Reserve Force of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
This point was made – in all probability inadvertently – by Police Minister Bheki Cele and National Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, in response to a Parliamentary question. Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Cele’s portfolio, Andrew Whitfield, sought reasons for the decline in police reservist numbers.
He was told reservists are volunteers with “many joining when they were unemployed” and resigning once they found work.
A similar situation exists in the part-time component of the SANDF. The only income these soldiers have comes with call-ups for among others, border control under the Operation Corona tasking. This is a permanent on the to-do list of the SANDF while other deployments where the Reserve Force is utilised are in response to situations such as last year’s violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (Operation Chariot) and assisting in the wake of disasters – such as the torrential rain and floods in KwaZulu-Natal this April (Operation Prosper).
Commenting on the numbers given by Cele and Masemola, Whitfield said the SAPS reservist programme was “effectively wiped out” with the loss of 90% of reservists since the 2011/12 financial year.
“In 2011/12 there were 52 054 SAPS reservists across the country. Ten years later SAPS has 4 393 reservists. This is a devastating blow to the fight against crime as reservists play a critical role in supporting SAPS with its declining numbers of personnel.
“The figures make it clear Cele targeted the reservist programme in his final act as National Police Commissioner 10 years ago. Numbers declined sharply from 2011/12 (52 054) when he was National Police Commissioner and 2012/13 (19 129), the financial year he was fired. That represents a 63% decline in reservist numbers in a single financial year.
“Since then reservist numbers continue in the same trend with another sharp decline after Cele was appointed police minister from 2018/19 and 2021/22. In this period numbers dropped to 4 393 from 8 707 – 50%,” according to Whitfield.