Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu and a delegation of advisers and South African National Defence Force generals will visit military barracks in Cape Town and Johannesburg on Thursday and Friday.
“The minister will use the visits to inspect the condition of the barracks, report back to the soldiers on the work of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission (INDFSC) and to share progress on the implementation of … ministerial priorities as detailed in the Budget Vote speech delivered on July 3, her office said.
She will be visiting Youngsfield military base in Cape Town Thursday and Dunnottar at Springs in Gauteng on Friday.
The visits come just after the INDFSC handed Sisulu another report on its probe into current service conditions and salaries.
Commission chairman Judge Lebotsang Bosielo yesterday said he was confident the report’s recommendations will improve soldiers’ salaries.
“I am confident that it will make improvements in the working conditions and salaries of the soldiers,” told media in Pretoria in an update on the progress the commission had made since its appointment in October.
“The commission intends to finalise its reports which will include all other issues dealt with in the second interim report early in 2010. The minister will submit the report to President Jacob Zuma who will share the context with Cabinet.”
The SA Press Association added that Bosielo said the commission was unable to divulge the content of the report “because it had not been approved”.
According to The Times newspaper Bosielo also said that Sisulu wanted to see “salaries and general conditions improved to boost the confidence and morale of soldiers”.
“It is common knowledge that the SANDF is not sufficiently remunerated for what they do,” Bosielo said.
The Department of Defence (DoD) last month said the SANDF has suffered a decade of neglect.
It was at the time reacting to an interim report that painted a damning picture of conditions in the military, with underpaid soldiers living in shacks or in filthy barracks. Morale was low and discipline had in some places collapsed.
“The truth is that the current situation in the SANDF has been for a long time coming,” the DoD said in a media release.
“Despite our success as an African peacekeeping contributing force, the SANDF has in reality experienced a decade of neglect.”
Bosielo told Parliament he and his fellow commisioners “wondered how soldiers survive with the salaries they are getting.”
“Because of the salary bracket they are in, they do not qualify for RDP (reconstruction and development programme, i.e. state subsidised low cost) houses. At the same time, because of the meagre salaries they earn, they do not qualify to go to banks to secure bonds, so they are falling [through] the cracks. And what are the cracks? To go to the informal settlements and stay in the shacks in the townships.
“This is what prompted us to draft and prepare an interim report to the minister; to draw her attention and say we are sitting on a time bomb. If you don’t attend to it today – or yesterday – you’re going to regret it,” Bosielo said.
He also called conditions at some military bases “sub-human”.
Pic: Soldiers in plin clothes protest poor remuneration and service conditions near the Union Buildings, Pretoria, August 26