In January this year, 60 specially selected Military Skills Development System (MSDS) volunteers started the first phase of basic military training (BMT) as the first tangible part of the Army Reserve’s commitment to rural development in North West.
The involvement of particularly the Reserve component of the landward force in rural development was first mooted by former Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, some three years ago.
National and provincial elections in May this year have meant Brigadier General Gerhard Kamffer and his team working on the rural development initiative with Potchefstroom as its base have had to revisit the provincial government, now under Premier Supra Mahumapelo. At the outset talks around the rural development initiative were held with previous provincial premier, Thandi Modise.
Kamffer said it was envisaged that memoranda of understanding with a number of stakeholders would be entered into early in the next financial year. Planned for the Potchefstroom military area are gardens to provide fresh greens to at least some of the bases, with vehicle maintenance by suitably qualified local people another way of spreading the military/rural development interface.
The 60 North West, more specifically Potchefstroom area-based, volunteers are seen as the eventual vanguard of the Reserve Force’s rural development team. They will be the link between communities providing goods and services to the military.
Agricultural co-operatives and farming communities, both commercial and emerging, in and around Potchefstroom have been earmarked as the first to become involved in the supply of rations to military bases as part of the defence procurement chain.
Earlier this year Kamffer said the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) contribution to rural development must not be “restricted to the agricultural interface only but be broadened to include the industrial and services sectors and human resources”.
Apart from providing the SANDF with goods and services there are other potential areas where the military can contribute to national, particularly rural, development in this programme.
These include youth development, utilisation of Reserve Force soldiers from rural communities to improve income streams, supplying community services where local government cannot and improvement of defence infrastructure.
Kamffer is confident implementation of the Reserve Force/rural development concept will contribute to government’s developmental agenda without impacting on the core business of the SANDF.
“The SA Army as a critical instrument of national power will remain relevant and ready to support the State and the people of South Africa,” he said.