Major General Roy Andersen, who should have handed over responsibilities as Chief: SANDF Reserves at the end of May to a successor is, in his own words, “staying on a bit longer”.
This is after being asked – again – by Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), General Solly Shoke, to keep on contributing as the country’s most senior Reserve Force officer. He has held this position since October 2003 when he was promoted to major general as Reserve Force chief.
He would not give an indication of exactly how long “a bit longer” was going to be.
Andersen last year told defenceWeb he had been asked by Shoke to stay on for another year when his retirement from uniformed service was imminent. Among others the country’s top soldier wanted the Defence Reserves chief to carry on as a trustee of the Education Trust set up by Shoke to assist the dependents of soldiers killed or seriously injured while on duty.
This trust has this year made available 68 bursaries – nine more than planned for – at a value of more than R1.1 million.
As Reserve Force chief, Andersen serves on both the Military Command Council and the Defence Staff Council.
Andersen was born and educated in Johannesburg and was commissioned into the artillery in 1966. He commanded the Transvaal Horse Artillery (THA) from 1976 to 79 and was subsequently appointed Senior Staff Officer Artillery and then Senior Staff Officer Operations of 7 Infantry Division.
He has also served of the General of the Gunners and is honorary colonel of the THA.
On this front he told defenceWeb: “the SA Army unit names review process is reaching an advanced stage following a further opportunity granted to units to consult more widely with serving members and veterans”.
The name change of Army Reserve units was first mooted by Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, now SANDF Corporates Services chief, when he was SA Army Chief. Over a period of at least four years various consultations, roadshows and discussion sessions have been held around the name changes but not a single unit has yet changed its name to remove colonial or pre-1994 connotations.
He also said “we are looking at rejuvenating the Reserve Force to bring down the average age. The current reserve service system has been adapted from the old Citizen Force system and doesn’t meet the needs of the current socio-economic conditions in South Africa or the aspirations of the youth of today”.
One of what Andersen termed “many small victories” for the Reserves was the Drums and Pipes of the Cape Town Highlanders representing South Africa at the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations earlier this year in London.
The Reserves make up an important component of the South African National Defence Force. Earlier this year Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula stated that “the SANDF Reserves will remain the force to be reckoned with”. The role of the Reserves is “critical” and has been confirmed as such by the Defence Review, she stated.
“This includes responsibility for augmenting the Regulars in ongoing operations, providing the expansion capability of the defence force for major combat operations and crisis response as well as providing specialist and scarce skills for the Department of Defence (DoD).
“In terms of the Defence Review, the Reserves are to provide a cost-effective mechanism for capacitating the defence force for operational surges. In addition the Reserves are suppliers of vital professional supportive expertise and certain skills that do not normally exist in the full-time structure of the SA National Defence Force.”
“Out of 22,500 active Reserves, just over 14,500 are called up an annual basis for an average period of 183 days and many are deployed on border safeguarding operations,” she said.
More than half (66%) of the soldiers deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona are Reserve Force members. At any one time there are about 2 200 soldiers deployed on border protection along all six of South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.