The fledgling Border Management Authority (BMA) is, according to a Parliamentary presentation, set to start operations in the coming festive season with Reserve Force soldiers apparently going to carry out patrol and other border protection functions alongside inspectors from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).
The use of part-time soldiers, seemingly going to be seconded to the BMA, as the nucleus of a yet-to-be finalised border guard, comes at a time when the most senior Reserve Force post – that of Chief – has been vacant going on for six months. Similarly, the post of Chief: Army Reserves, by far the largest component of the Reserve Force, is vacant. Previous incumbent, Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer, was named Director: Project Koba-Tlala in June, when Roy Andersen, long serving former Reserves chief, stepped down.
In October defenceWeb was told by the Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) the posts were vacant because “new appointments were not promulgated”. The part-time component of the SANDF is widely accepted as integral to application and execution of the one force doctrine and the presence of a Chief: Reserves in and on top level defence councils is evidence of this.
The announcement in Parliament last month (November) of Reserve Force involvement in almost immediate border protection work and next year in the BMA Border Guard brought home the need for top level management in the part-time component of the SANDF. BMA leadership is – reportedly – finalising discussions with the SANDF on the use of Reserves. A memorandum of agreement (MOA) was planned to be finalised by 30 November. At the time of publishing no public announcement in this regard had been made by either the SANDF or Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s Department of Home Affairs.
One who is not surprised by the Home Affairs call for Reserve Force involvement is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.
“It is well-known the Reserves are integral to the overall human resource component of the SANDF. Add to that the use of Reserves in the majority of deployments and its clear Reserves are essential to the SANDF,” he said, quoting operations Corona, Mistral, the now finished Notlela and Prosper as examples.
According to Marais, Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) claims a cut in Reserve Force mandays will save about R500 million – “a fraction of the compensation of employees (CoE) overspend”.
“It makes no sense to cut Reserve Force mandays to 1.9 million while increasing the regular force strength to 73 000.
“It will be more cost effective to retain and possibly increase Reserve Force strength and cut the regular force by at least 15 000. This will initiate bigger savings which will assist the DoD to spend on equipment maintenance and procurement.”
From what is in the public domain as regards the BMA, it will be funded from National Treasury with eight other government departments contributing. They are Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; Defence and Military Veterans; Forestry, Fisheries and Environment; Health; Police; State Security; Trade, Industry and Competition as well as Transport.
Once fully operational as a Schedule Three entity (one dependent on government funding and public money), the BMA will have expenses exceeding R8 billion. These are set out as CoE of R2 974 962 978 and R5 281 133 622 for goods and services. The recent Parliamentary presentation does not indicate if expenses will be ongoing or shrink once, for example, specific goods are acquired.
Marais will take the issue of senior vacancies in the Reserve Force further, in the first instance by way of a Parliamentary question for Minister Modise.