Rank stagnation affects thousands in the SANDF as exits loom

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The single largest age group in the uniformed ranks of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is 30 to 34 and numbers over thirteen thousand, of which just on eight thousand are sergeants, corporals, lance corporals and petty officers.

The same age group has the second largest representation in the ranks of private (including gunner, rifleman and sapper), air- and seaman, totalling 4 303. The immediate younger group (25 to 29) has the largest lowest rank number of 4 437, according to a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) by Department of Defence (DoD) chief human resource office, Vice Admiral Asiel Kubu.

He gave seven groups where stagnation has been reached as far as rank/age requirements are concerned in a total force personnel strength of 73 098.

They start at two- and one-star general/junior grade and rear admiral (SAN) and colonel/captain (SAN) where 370 are in the 55 to 59 age group, with 1 357 lieutenant colonels/ commanders (SAN), majors/lieutenant commanders (SAN) and captains/lieutenants (SAN) in the 50 to 54 age group having zero rank progression ahead.

The same age group is home to 4 146 warrant officers one and two as well as staff/flight sergeants and chief petty officers.

Thirty-three lieutenants and 843 non-commissioned officers (sergeant, petty officer, corporal and lance corporal) are not going to progress to warrant officer if DoD rank/age requirements are applied.

The mobility exit mechanism (MEM) and employee initiated severance packages (EISP) will, Kubu’s presentation has it, see 3 129 uniformed personnel leave the SANDF as part of the planned attribution programme to ensure a force with a manageable compensation of employees (CoE) factor going ahead. Normal attrition and severance exits are estimated to amount to 3 129 for 2022/23, and 3 093 for 2023/24.

Ranks set to lose the most people are lieutenant colonel/commander (SAN), non-commissioned officer (NCO), warrant officer and private. At senior rank level the loss is set to be 97 colonels/captains (SAN), 26 brigadier generals/ junior grade admirals and 13 major generals/rear admirals.

The average planned SANDF strength for 2022/23 is 73 098; 72 864 the following year, and 72 597 in 2024/25. CoE will use up R33.7 billion of the defence budget in 2022/23 and R34.4 billion in 2024/25.