The importance of the part-time soldier in South Africa’s national military machine is aptly illustrated in the One Force concept used to up the numbers and do the work.
This has again come clearly to the fore in the ongoing national state of disaster declared by government in its efforts to contain COVID-19 and protect citizens from the virus.
At the height of the lockdown (Level Five) more than 14 000 Reserve Force personnel were in uniform supporting the regular force in tasks as far apart as manning roadblocks and screening civilians for signs of the virus.
This is acknowledged, not only by Chief of Defence Reserves Major General Roy Andersen, but also by the man in overall charge of the national defence force’s human resources – Vice Admiral Asiel Kubu.
As with the majority of taskings undertaken by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in democratic South Africa, Operation Notlela is a designated OOTW (operation other than war).
The vice admiral writes in a message to the Reserve Force that without it, “the national defence force cannot exercise its Constitutional mandate”. Also “the Reserves will continue playing a critical role in the defence of our country”.
He points out the Operation Notlela utilisation of the Reserve Force as heralding a new era for the SANDF.
“Op Notlela will be cited as one of the greatest operations ever to be conducted in the country by the SANDF because of the invisible enemy we have to face and fight as a country. This energy affected the entire globe, the continent and the region. During this period our brave men and women of the SANDF were deployed to contain the spread of the virus named COVID-19. Reserve Force members volunteered their service despite the risk of contracting the virus during deployment. They were willing and prepared to help the country to contain the spread of the pandemic.
“As part of our One Force concept, all nine provinces of South Africa deployed Reserve Force members to augment our Regulars. They conducted this responsibility with distinction, courage and utmost professionalism. This selfless sacrifice of the Reserves will go a long way in our history as the SANDF and must be documented in our war diary for future generations to comprehend and to appreciate.
“What we learned during Op Notlela is we must continue as the SANDF to harness requisite skills in the Reserve Force to ensure survival during difficult times as a military due to continuous budget constraints.
“Op Notlela taught us the SANDF needs to buy talent, borrow talent, grow, build and boost talent in the Reserve Force for our own survival, benefit and operational readiness as the SANDF. This will only be possible through continuous empowerment of the human capital enlisted in the Reserve Force,” according to the SANDF’s top human resources staffer.