Quality and availability of SANDF equipment hurting morale

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The quality and availability of equipment in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is a concern to its members and is bringing morale down.

This is according to the results of a survey by the Defence Inspectorate Division of the Department of Defence. Major General Willbrod Musa Mazibuko, Inspector General, provided the results of the 2021/22 financial year morale survey to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 9 March.

He explained that the DoD distributed over 8 700 questionnaires to Regular Force, Reserve Force and Public Service Act Personnel, and 6 047 were answered satisfactorily. Both members who were not deployed and those who had returned from deployment were surveyed.

Overall, morale in the SANDF is neutral, with some positive and some negative areas. “Logistics – availability of equipment” and “logistics – quality of equipment” were the only indicators where morale was clearly negative.

SANDF members have in recent years experienced issues such as poor rations while deployed in Mozambique, combat boots which deteriorate rapidly in tropical climates like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and expired ration packs. Troops deployed in KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021 following civil unrest complained that they either were not fed or were only given one meal a day, and some soldiers deployed in the DRC had to stay behind during their leave period because they would have otherwise had to pay out of their own pocket to return to South Africa.

The co-chairpersons of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, Cyril Xaba, and Mamagase Nchabeleng, in a statement said the committee is concerned that the morale index highlighted two negative ratings on availability of equipment and quality of equipment. “The availability of capabilities and defence platforms represents a key pillar on functionality of the SANDF and the fact that these two critical components are lacking, is an issue of serious concern for the committee.”

The committee also said it was “apprehensive that the overall morale index registered a neutral rating especially because a positive rating is desired. Furthermore, the committee was of the view that the results don’t correlate with the interactions the committee has had with members of the SANDF. The committee called for the SANDF to present the questionnaire used to ascertain where the disparities might have arisen.”

The survey results found that morale was generally neutral or positive when it came to management and leadership, while human resource management was positive as was training. SANDF members thought that the image of the DoD as an employer was positive.

Most categories were rated neutral, such as communication and performance assessment, career management, policies and financial administration, medical services, the physical environment, satisfaction with opportunities for recreation, team spirit, and motivation/attitude to work.

Kobus Marais, opposition Democratic Alliance party shadow defence minister, said the survey results indicate “problems. We do not have a happy defence force. If there was a happy defence force there should have been a lot more positives.”

Xaba said that visits to the SANDF saw people complaining about rank stagnation, pilots not being able to fly enough hours to keep their licenses current, and general complaints about the unavailability of equipment. He said of the morale score, “we would want something slightly above neutral at least.”

Mazibuko acknowledged that equipment is a challenge and that the SANDF needs modern technology to deal with the issues of today. “With limited resources it is quite challenging to procure new equipment. The maintenance of equipment talks to funds as well.”

Marais estimated that the SANDF is underfunded by R15 billion a year but there’s little chance of extra money going to the military due to the poor performance of the economy.