The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is relying more and more on part-time soldiers to supplement the regular force in fulfilling its mandate.
This was confirmed by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, during the recent Budget Vote of the Department of Defence and Military Veterans in Parliament.
She said that the Reserve Force is “providing an increasing proportion of the deployments, both on external peace support operations and for the protection of our borders.”
It is believed the Reserve Force comprises some 22,000 members, of whom 14,668 were called up during the year ending 31 March 2014.
The majority of the members were utilised for internal deployment under Operation Corona, the safeguarding of South Africa’s borders. Specifically, 7 of the 13 companies deployed for border protection are Reserve Force members, or 55% of the forces deployed.
The Reserves also contribute to the manpower required for continental peacekeeping operations, such as the 1,000 South African soldiers serving in the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apart from the battalion of soldiers, three Rooivalk attack heliports and various Oryx transport helicopters support the mission.
The percentage of Reserve Force members on foreign deployment is believed to be 25% of each battalion, i.e., 1 of 4 companies.
Mapisa-Nqakula noted that the Reserves possessed many skills which either did not exist in the SANDF, or were under-represented. These included skills which were acquired by members who had served in the regular force, but had subsequently resigned.
“There are skills which you need from those who are out there in the Reserves,” she explained. This included medical doctors and pilots.
Of the 14,668 members called up last year, 10,316 served in the SA Army, 1,529 in the SA Military Health Services, the Divisions accounted for 1,409, the Navy another 619 and 495 served in the Air Force. It is not known with whom the balance of 300 members served.
These Reserves Force members served an average of 183 days per person during the year.
Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, spokesperson for the Defence Force, says that this figure is very much an average.
“Some members are called up for retraining and then for a six month deployment, a limited number are called up for (similar) periods for administrative and training duties whilst others are only called up for as little as one evening a month,” he explained.
When a Reserve Force member is not deployed on operations, the goal for each member is to do twelve days of service/training a year.
Whilst Mapisa-Nqakula says that the revitalisation of the Reserve Force remains a priority, progress has been inhibited by financial constraints.