Speech: Lt Gen Vusumuzi Masondo, Chief SA Army, media breakfast, May 16


Members of the Army Command Council, our special guests from the media, ladies and gentlemen. The South African Army is delighted to be your host this morning.

A very warm word of welcome to each and every one of you. I trust that you will enjoy the morning with us as we interact around the breakfast table.

My primary intention this morning is to strengthen the existing good relationship between the SA Army and the different media houses and broadcasters. I have strived during my time in office thus far to maintain these good and cordial relations with the media as a collective, for reason that it remains a priority stakeholder. I do therefore wish that not only the breakfast served this morning, courtesy of the SA Army College, but also your interaction with the members of the Army Command Council will greatly benefit this cause.

I would like to highlight certain aspects of the SA Army today in an attempt to not only update you on current issues, but also to emphasise the importance of our role in conjunction with other services and divisions to provide credible defence for a democratic South Africa. The constitutional obligation of the SA Army is to defend and protect South Africa, its territory and its people. Our motto: ‘we train as we fight” therefore focuses on preparing forces for high intensity landward operations. Against this conventional background, our soldiers are furthermore prepared to deploy in both foreign peace missions, as sanctioned by the AU and the UN, as well as internal missions such as border safe guarding. Beyond and above these, the SA Army is also engaged in operations other than war by rendering support to government programmes, other departments as well as support to our people. This is knowledge most of you will be acquainted with.

Touching on our external deployments, the SA Army fulfilled all its Joint Force Employment commitments for the FY 2012/13 notwithstanding the fact that it was overstretched, especially in the infantry, engineer, intelligence, signal and support capabilities. Soldiers of the SA Army are currently deployed in peace missions in the DRC and Sudan. I would like to emphasise the fact that the SA Army is indeed suitably prepared and equipped for the conditions that they may encounter during peace support operations. Much have been said and speculated after the operational incident in the CAR that resulted in the tragic deaths of 14 of our soldiers. I am convinced that few other forces would have been able to match the combat capability displayed by our soldiers in the situation they had to face. Although all things possible are done to prevent casualties on the battlefield, they do unfortunately occur. This is a fact many of the super powers deployed in UN peace missions have come to accept. No battle space can be totally controlled by whatever force in appreciating all possible scenarios.

Even with all available intelligence resources focussing on trying to establish just that, it is the quality of soldiering that in the end decides the result when conflict is inevitable. I want to assure you that we have taken heed of the CAR incident and will incorporate the lessons learnt from this in preparing forces for future operations.

We have also been involved in the training of statutory forces in many of the countries plagued by turbulence and violence, such as the training presented to the Armed Forces of DRC and the Central African Republic. In retrospect, countries where we were or are still deployed have expressed their gratitude for the assistance in creating stable environments in which the cumbersome processes of healing and rebuilding could be initiated. We must accept our role as a regional role player. Our participation in peace support operations has created an increased sense amongst those people living under horrid and insecure conditions that South African Soldiers are there to assist in providing a better life for all people on the continent. This is something we must expand on in order to sustain the good relations already established.

Internally the SA Army have deployed soldiers along the borders with our neighbouring countries with great effect. Code named Operation Corona, the deployment of forces continues in a phased approach, whilst engaging other departments and stake holders. At the moment a total of 13 companies of the South African Army are deployed along South Africa’s borders.

Since its deployment, the SA Army has played a vital role in securing our borders in the battle against smuggling, illegal border crossings, the theft of live stock and rhino poaching syndicates. Since January 2012, our soldiers contributed to the confiscation of 15 391 kg of dagga & 2 782 dagga plants, apprehended 12 409 undocumented immigrants, recovered 76 vehicles, confiscated contraband to the value of R 18 271 529. 00, recovered 98 illegal fire arms and quantities of ammunition, and also succeeded in recovering more than a thousand head of life stock.

The current Defence Review Process is of utmost importance as the inclusion of our future strategy will position the SA Army to not only comply with national and international obligations, but also to do so within the spectrum of what can be considered as internationally accepted standards for rotation of personnel, protective measures and logistical support. However within a limited medium term budget, we will have to find the means to not only regenerate ourselves, but also to position ourselves to comply with future demands on our resources. At the moment the SA Army is under strain to fulfil its national and international obligations as our forces become more in demand. There is an increase in requests for internal and external support that has lead to the Army deploying available force levels for extended periods exceeding what is deemed the international norm. Such strain can only be sustained for a limited period where after mission readiness may become compromised.

Aside our deployments, the SA Army is continually engaged in or ready to render internal support to other government departments. For those of you who may not be aware of such support, the SA Army has in the past been called on to render assistance in securing hospitals during strike actions, to assist Home Affairs with the documentation of immigrants, to deploy soldiers at voting stations during elections, to render support with preventing the spread of swine fever, to assist local municipalities with emergency water supplies, to rescue stranded vehicles and people from remote areas during heavy snow falls and also to render general back?up support to the SAPS during festive seasons and periods of unrest. So far this year the SA Army rendered support to other departments in the fields of Safety and Security, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, the African Cup of Nations as well as ongoing support to the Department of Home Affairs for which we make extensive use of Reserve members who assist with administrative duties and to man ports of entry.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mission of the SA Army remains to provide combat ready forces for operations. During the previous financial year, a total of 632 courses were presented which produced a total of 17 235 competent learners. During 2013/14 we ought to match and even better on it. Our force training this year will culminate with the execution of two major exercises. The first is Exercise Shared Accord during July and August which is a joint exercise with the US forces. Exercise Young Eagle will be one of the phases of this exercise comprising an air borne exercise for South African Forces only. I am satisfied that our planning of exercises is well coordinated with other services and divisions and that this will ensure the optimal utilisation of available resources within the SANDF.

The Military Skills Development System saw the SA Army accommodating an intake of 1 615 recruits for 2013 who are undergoing training at 3 SAI Bn and the Infantry School. 79 of these recruits unfortunately withdrew during the last couple of months due to medical reasons or voluntary withdrawal. The training is progressing successfully and the problems experienced with the delayed registering of a few members on the system, this means that they are allocated with force numbers, was resolved. The acquisition function of candidates into the system will in due course be transferred to the SA Army and other services. I am sure that this will greatly alleviate current systemic frustrations experienced.

As you may know, many of these members will at the end of their two year contracts be transferred to the Reserves. This will greatly support current plans to rejuvenate the Reserves who are being utilised extensively for operational deployments. During previous press releases as well as radio interviews, the SA Army has made public the process we have embarked on that will see name changes of certain Reserve units and regiments. I can assure you that there is nothing sinister to this and that it is a voluntary process supported within the reserve environment. The aim is to acquire a level of synergy amongst all role players, with unit names and regiments reflecting cohesiveness and regimental pride amongst all reserves. The process being followed allows for acknowledging military heroes of the past, makes provision for South African military history currently not reflected in this environment, and also accommodates regional uniqueness. Once the process is completed, the results will be communicated to the general public.

A few years ago we started with the role?out of the University Reserve Training Programme. I am pleased to say that this has been highly successful. A total of 54 students completed basic military training in Bloemfontein and have been commissioned as 2Lts within the SA Armour Formation. A further 80 students completed their basic training at Fort Ikapa as was presented by the SA Air Defence Artillery Formation. A further 80 students have been selected from tertiary institutions in Gauteng and the NW Province and will commence with training in Potchefstroom during July this year. To the SA Army the rejuvenation of the Reserves is of great importance. During the previous financial year, 10 784 Reserves were called up. Through this we succeeded in supplementing the Regulars and were able to deploy 12 Infantry companies in both internal and external operations.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am on record as saying that discipline in the SA Army is one of my key focus areas. Adherence to the Military Code of Conduct and processes and procedures regulating grievances cannot be negotiated. It is unfortunate that isolated incidents of poor discipline that occur are portrayed in a manner so as to suggest that this has become the norm the SA Army. I would like to make it very clear that by far the majority of our members pride themselves in soldiering and that they display the highest norms and values both in and out of uniform. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) resumed with its trial procedures against some SANDF members who were implicated in an illegal march at the Union Buildings on 26 August 2009. The pre?trial process took place as from 8 to 9 May 2013 at the SA Army Gymnasium, Heidelberg. This process follows the successful completion of Preliminary Investigation and the drawing up of charge sheets which was concluded on 21 February 2013, at 121 South African Infantry Battalion, Mtubatuba Military Base.

The SA Army also acknowledges its social responsibility to the citizens of the country and is involved in a number of social responsibility programmes. Principle amongst these is the support to government programmes aimed at uplifting the living conditions of rural communities. Our corps of engineers has over the past number of years built numerous bridges across geographical obstacles, enabling affected communities the chance to acquire better living conditions with direct access to clinics, schools and other basic communal services. Own projects initiated sees the SA Army involved in the sponsoring of computers to certain schools and assistance to identified creches, as we see the education, training and development of our youth as a national priority. To this end, the SA Army has also been supporting the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform by providing training to students on the National Rural Youth Service Corps programme. The current students will receive certificates for the successful completion of the course at the end of May 2013.

The Young Lions programme is another initiative the SA Army embarked on two years ago whereby learners from schools in Grades 10 and 11 are orientated over school holidays in life skills, leadership, team work, discipline and the role of the SA Army. This was done on a national level under the auspices of Reserve units in Grahamstown, Potchefstroom, Durban, Kimberley, Cape Town and Johannesburg. A total number of 297 learners have undergone the orientation programme. It is the SA Army’s intent to use this programme as a platform from which some of the learners can be selected for the MSDS programme.

But not all is work, we can also play. The SA Army is responsible for the presentation of tattoos in selected cities and is supported in this by the other services. Last year saw the successful presentation of the tattoos in Durban and Cape Town. It will feature again this year over the periods 9-13 July in Durban and 30 Oct-2 Nov in Cape Town. You are most welcome to attend it and enjoy the spectacular events aimed at entertaining the public.

Members of the media, as the Chief of the SA Army, I have pledged to steer the Army on the road of constructive rejuvenation and modernisation as our country’s primary landward defence capability. I have also pledged to ensure that our soldiers can always be reckoned on as being disciplined and professional. I want to ensure you that all means at my disposal are being utilised to ensure just that ? providing a landward defence capability that all citizens of this country can rely on and be proud of. A South African Army
able and capable to face the future challenges with confidence and able to provide the ultimate security for any internal or external threat that may face the citizens of this beautiful country. To this end the support of our friends and partners are crucial in influencing decision makers at all levels regarding a force design and budget that will enable the SA Army to fulfil its obligations. The willingness of the SA Army is beyond reproach. Available resources must however be commensurate with government sanctioned obligations.

I conclude by thanking you for your presence here this morning. The media plays a crucial role as the primary source of information to the public and as an opinion former. My personal request to you is that we strive to maintain the good relationship that currently exists between us. I do realize that not all your future reports will necessarily depict the SA Army in a favourable manner. I do however trust that your opinions when reporting on the SA Army will at all times be objective and acknowledge the fact that the reason for existence of the South African Army is but to be in service of the country and all its people.

Enjoy the rest of the morning with us.

I will now take questions.

I thank you.