SANDF promotions and transfers for 2019 seemingly on hold

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The annual SA National Defence Force (SANDF) signals announcing promotions, transfers and course postings for the 2019 calendar year have not yet been circulated.

This was emphasised by SANDF corporate communications director Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi in response to a defenceWeb enquiry. He pointed out that “matters pertaining to transfers and promotions are part of SANDF internal processes undertaken at any time deemed necessary by the SANDF”.

This was after this publication asked if the non-appearance of promotions/transfer signals was a possible pointer to none happening this year and being part of a potential austerity programme in the national defence force. Mgobozi did not respond to this.

The signals are widely accepted as the “best known secrets in the force” because they are internal documents not meant for general distribution. Over the years they have provided valuable insight as to which officers were selected for, among others, the senior staff course and the security and defence studies programme as well as which officers would be in charge of which units/bases/squadrons. This has been useful to South African military watchers including Members of Parliament, academics, think tank researchers and others, including journalists.

Some of them responded to defenceWeb about the non-announcement of promotions and transfers.

A source involved in the wider South African military sector, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the signals were initially approved but put on hold because of “disagreement” in the most senior echelons of the government military machine. Complaints about gender and colour representation were apparently made.

Another source indicated “everything is on hold – even officers about to retire or exit under a voluntary package until after the election”. No date has yet been announced for South Africans to vote for the fifth Parliament but indications are polling day will be in mid-May.

Democratic Alliance MP Kobus Marais, the party’s shadow defence and military veterans minister, said the non-appearance of the signals, including the further study one, was not acceptable.

“This indicates a downsizing of the effectiveness and quality of training,” he said, adding it would reflect in future promotions where people could find themselves in posts they do not have the right education and training for.

“Promotions and transfers must take place based on real needs in the national defence force and on proper and in-compliance training and education of soldiers in all ranks and managerial posts.

“Any compromise will compromise the SANDF’s state of readiness.”

On the non-appearance of any promotions/transfers signals, Marais said these should not be artificially done to give certain individuals better benefits or move “obstructive people not in favour with the leadership structures”.

According to Rapport, reasons for the delay in promotions and transfers are because there are two few white and female candidates and the lists are apparently being expanded to cater for more candidates.

The promotions of colonels and generals is usually announced at the year-end so they have time to relocate if necessary.