SADC countries aim to reduce forces, have more women in the military


Southern African Development Community (SADC) members states last week agreed to downsize their defence forces but at the same time resolved have more women joining the military.

This emerged from the Inter-State Defence and Security Committee Human Resources working group meeting in Harare last week. The meeting brought together senior commanders from all SADC members states’ armies.

Addressing delegates at the closing ceremony of the meeting on May 23, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Chief of Staff Service Personnel and Logistics, Air Vice Marshal Titus Abu-Basutu, said the move to trim armies would be carefully looked into.
“In discussing exit strategies of downsizing our defence forces, you explored ways of harmonisation in order to achieve a common approach to this important matter,” he said.

Because of each SADC member is different, downsizing the armies should be tailored to suit the needs of each member state. Therefore no figures or percentage of people to be retired where made available. In that regard, Abu-Basutu said the regional bloc will carefully study the situation and come up with ways of integrating retired soldiers into civilian life.
“Your decision on this matter to provide incentives through the review upwards of pension benefits and rehabilitation courses of three years before retirement, among others is a noble recommendation. Enhanced retirement packages will mould retirees into responsible citizens as well as prepare them for civilian life,” Abu-Basutu said in his speech.

The decision to trim the military could result in most countries containing their budget allocation to defence forces in the long-run. But in the immediate future it will result in higher expenditure to fund exit packages.

The move could be costly in as far as regional and international peacekeeping. There is conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo where South Africa and Zimbabwe mainly have done duty in the past and are on standby. There is also the Central African Republic where South Africa was heavily involved.

There was also a fast track resolution to have more women joining the security forces.
“It is gratifying to note that…most defence forces have promulgated policies that address and promote gender equity. I have no doubt that by 2015 the majority of our defence forces will have achieved the 30% threshold for women,” Abu-Basutu said.

Globally, countries are struggling to get more women involved as active soldiers in the military. In 2008 only five per cent of soldiers in the world were female. South Africa is a leader in the region with 22% of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) being made up of women, which is higher than the regional average of about 10%.