Project Koba-Tlala planned to become a production brigade


The seed planted in 2017 which germinated into Project Koba-Tlala is now, under the mentorship of its founding father, ready to grow further into a production brigade for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

This is the crux of a presentation in late May to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) by Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, former Chief: Army Reserves and the driving force behind Koba-Tlala, which he now heads as director. He sees the project as aiding rural development and being a supplier, primarily of fresh produce, to the SANDF as part of an overall self-sustainability drive.

Kamffer’s presentation had it Koba-Tlala to date has reskilled more than 1 400 Reserve Force soldiers from various musterings and will in the current financial year add a further 862 part-time soldiers to this list. The skills imparted range from coding through to community development and liaison, agriculture-related, water and sanitation, firefighting, first aid and security.

Apart from the skills used in employment efforts when not called up, Koba-Tlala is the sole vehicle in the overall Department of Defence (DoD) that can stimulate rural economic initiatives and be a catalyst for development, again much-needed in the rural areas.

It is also – importantly – one of two defence projects contributing to government’s National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. The other is the military skills development (MSD) system which sees around two thousand recruits entering the ranks of the four SANDF services for a two-year period. Financial pressure means there will no longer be an annual intake of MSDs, with future intakes once every two years.

A February 2022 CSANDF and Military Command Council (MCC) decision has it “Project Koba-Tlala is approved in its current configuration for the short-term FY22/23 whilst a plan is drafted to transform it into a Production Brigade which will serve to support sustainment of the SANDF in the outer years of the current MTEF (medium term expenditure framework) from FY2024/2025”.

As far as becoming a fresh produce and other foodstuff supplier to military messes, Kamffer gave six examples.

They are the Sakhulwazi women’s hub at Philippi and the farmer urban network in Western Cape; the General Botha Regiment vegetable garden in Mpumalanga’s Barberton; establishing the Marievale agri-village and agricultural training centre in Gauteng in conjunction with the provincial government; farming on defence land with two farms identified as potential pilot opportunities in North West and Free State; interaction with Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) on Mantusini dairy farm and vegetable farming at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.

Apart from the agricultural component of the proposed production brigade, Kamffer sees it eventually spreading to manufacturing with items such as boots, tracksuits and uniforms specifically mentioned.

On finance for both Koba-Tlala and the proposed production brigade, the JSCD heard operating budgets around the R3.7 million mark are needed for the current and next two financial years. Mandays needed are in the order of 18 478 at a cost of R17,3 million for Army Reserves for the same timeframes.

Kamffer has not forgotten the Mzantsi home guard in his future planning for Koba-Tlala. It will continue training in and for tactical intelligence, water purification, water and sanitation, firefighting as well as community development and liaison. This will be done via what he terms “sustained training” with selected Reserve Force units in Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.