A just over 30% cut in the salaries and wages allocation of the national defence budget is impacting negatively on the utilisation of a major part of the South African military machine – it’s part-time component.
According to the Department of Defence (DoD) the strength of the Reserve Force across all four services currently stands at just on twenty-three thousand uniformed personnel. When measured against the overall employment number of the SANDF and the DoD of around 89 000, it makes up just over 25% but enjoys the status of an equal partner in the one force concept the Defence Ministry and SANDF command structure has adopted.
More than half of these part-timers– about 15 000 – are called up for varying periods of service each year and this will be further impacted by a just over 30% cut in the wages and salaries allocation for the Reserve Force in the current financial year.
A DoD Bulletin states the number of Reserves called up annually is determined by operational and training requirements “as well as budget constraints”.
The decrease in funds available to pay the country’s party-time soldiers will, according to the Bulletin, have a negative effect on compensation of employees, including Reserve Force salaries.
Major General Roy Andersen, SANDF Reserves chief, is on record as saying the cut will affect the part-time component of the SANDF but all efforts are being made to ensure the Reserves meet ordered commitments such as the national border protection tasking Operation Corona, where more than half the 14 deployed companies at any one time are Reserve Force units. Reserves called up for border protection are exempt from the maximum 180 days a year service set down in the regulations because the deployment period is generally longer than this. The Reserves have and will continue to be deployed on continental peace support operations.
In terms of the regulations, recently amended, Reserve Force members can be called up for a maximum of 180 days in a single calendar year. This, the DoD Bulletin notes, is to provide for as many Reserves as possible to do service. While no figures are officially available, defenceWeb knows of a number of Reserve Forces units where regular call-ups are the sole employment of some soldiers.