SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief of Corporate Staff (CoS) Lieutenant General Michael Ramantswana maintains the country’s part-time soldiers are “a backbone to the regular forces.”
Essentially number two in the SANDF uniform hierarchy, the three-star sees the Reserve Force augmenting the full-time component of the SANDF on what he says are “various operations”. Writing in the Reserve Force Volunteer, Ramantswana has it the “evolution” of the SANDF, as per the 2015 Defence Review, gives the Reserves five roles, in addition to the over-arching augmentation of the full-time force.
The roles are to form part of the standing and surge military force capability; provide an expansion capability; provide specialist and scarce skills; provide specialist capabilities with construction and development specifically named; and enhance the relationship between defence, the public and private sectors as well as the wider South African community.
On border protection, Ramantswana has it the “spectrum of border security” is becoming more “complex and prevalent” with Reserve Force employment “vital”. The Reserve Force contributes five of the 15 companies deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona at any one time.
When it comes to Operation Prosper deployments, generally to support Minister Bheki Cele’s SA Police Service (SAPS), at least one company of a Reserve Force unit is called up.
“For effective and comprehensive deployment, the SANDF draws from [the] Reserve’s unique strengths, including burden sharing and an ability to deploy and sustain soldiers in the execution of the SANDF constitutional mandate.
“Accordingly, deployments not only demonstrate the necessity for the Reserves in the SANDF but also give Reserve personnel the opportunity to employ other skills or capabilities.” Ramantswana names three – medical, bridge building and firefighting – writing there are others.
He elaborates on the home guard responsibility added to Reserve Force commitments in “recent years” for assistance and support to affected communities during times of disaster or emergency. “The Reserve Force plays a significant role in support of this function as it ensures a proactive and comprehensive approach to the flow of information among relevant parties.”
As with all senior SANDF command staff, he knows all too well the impact budget cuts have on the national defence force. In this regard he informs readers: “the good work done by the Reserves in service of the country and its people has the potential of being overshadowed by crippling financial constraints”. A shrinking budget negatively impacts employment goals and what he sees as “translation of Reserves to the core service system resulting in stagnation and lack of a feeder system”.
Notwithstanding challenges the SANDF number two is positive, writing “the business of defending South Africa and supporting its people must continue”.
“We in the SANDF remain proud of contributions made by the Reserve Force supplementing the Regulars in operations such as providing guards at Eskom power stations, flood relief and other administrative support.”