An example of the cost-effective contribution made by South Africa’s part-time soldiers – the Reserve Force – to the national military effort is that a miserly 6.5% of the total landward force budget pays half of Operation Corona border security deployments.
This example was used by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief: Reserves, Major General Roy Andersen, to show parliamentarians the importance of having a strong and well-managed Reserve Force. He was accompanied by a six-strong delegation comprising Director Defence Reserves Brigadier General Debbie Molefe, Director Army Reserves Brigadier General (Dr) Gerhard Kamffer, Acting Director SAAF Reserves Colonel AR Lekalakala, Director Navy Reserves Rear Admiral (JG) K Masanabo, Director SAMHS Reserves Brigadier General (Dr) ANC Maminze, and SSO Reserves Provincial Office Western Cape Captain (SAN) MEP Ramutloa, who briefed the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).
Topics covered during the presentation included the role of the Defence Reserves Division; the role of the Reserves; the business case for the Reserves; Reserve strength per service; utilisation and deployments; transformation –race and gender; budget constraints; preparations for the Updated Reserve Force Service System; the Updated Reserve Force Service System; issues from the Reserve Force Indaba; Project Koba-Tlala; and Defence Provincial Liaison Councils.
Andersen told committee members the Reserve Force is not unionised. At the same time they do not receive any pension benefits and are only entitled to medical cover when called up.
The most common call-ups for Reserve Force soldiers are the national border protection tasking Operation Corona and continental deployment as part of South Africa’s foreign policy commitment to peacekeeping and peace support. Reserves have also been deployed this year to support Project Vaal River.
According to Andersen’s presentation the Reserves augment the Regulars in four areas. These are peace support operations, border safeguarding, support to the people including the national developmental agenda and proposed key point protection. The Reserves supplement the Regulars in areas including administrative and guard duties as well as chefs.
Additionally the Reserves are a component of the core defence capability, provide an expansion capability for major combat operations, contribute to the deterrence capability, provide specialist and scarce skills to the Department of Defence and enhance the relationship between South Africa’s military and the private and public sectors.
Reserve Force strength stands at 21 632 with the largest number being Army Reserves (14 934), followed by “Other” (2 605), the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) (2 463), SA Air Force (SAAF) (872) and SA Navy (758).
Andersen told the committee the updated Reserve Force Service System included the re-activation of Air Reserve squadrons and recruiting doctors and medical orderlies into the SAMHS Reserve.