Yet another senior defence force officer has pointed out the funding problems faced by the military, but Major General Joseph Ledwaba maintains the Defence Works Formation offers a solution of some sort keeping people employed and in uniform.
Ledwaba, General Officer Commanding of the Defence Works Formation, was speaking at the change of command parade for the Regional Works Unit, Eastern Cape, where Colonel Tania Champion took over from Colonel Owetu Dube.
Ledwaba told the Port Elizabeth parade soldiers in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) were impacted by “negative developments facing South Africa’s young democracy”. These included the socio-economic challenges of unemployment, inadequate education funding and a lack of housing.
As far as the country’s military was concerned underfunding, he said, was one accompanied by over-commitment on missions where the force is required to respond to national and international deployments.
“To do this we need fit and agile soldiers, serviceable equipment and facilities.
“Unfortunately there is no money to service or replace equipment and facilities or to fund the rejuvenation of the force,” he said, adding at least some of these challenges found expression for uniform personnel in the form of poor career mobility.
“The worst affected are the military skills development (MSD) members who cannot be accommodated in the Regular Forces because of underfunding. MSD members end up unemployed if we cannot call them up after their contracts have expired”.
He told the parade some SANDF personnel abandoned posts in services and divisions to join the Works Formation and there are currently 27 SA Navy personnel and 11 from the SA Military Health Service awaiting signals either for staffing or promotion in the formation.
As examples of how the Works Formation was contributing to the overall betterment of the SANDF in the Eastern Cape, Ledwaba said three bungalows (each accommodating 42 soldiers), a sick bay and a building at AFB Port Elizabeth as well as a duty room, ablution facilities and the upgrade of a senior officer’s house were completed work. Still planned for Eastern Cape Works Formation for the current financial year is another 42 sleeper bungalow and offices for pilots at AFB Port Elizabeth.
Ledwaba told the parade the creation and funding of the Works Formation was mooted by SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke, and the Military Command Council.
“There were options including but not limited to retrenchment of older soldiers who have not progressed beyond a certain rank. However, the choice was to retain as many as possible and provide employment for Reserves as and when funds become available”.
Pointing out it is not a sustainable option, Ledwaba said plans were now being formulated to provide for small business co-operatives to be established with Works Formation personnel driving them. Another option is the creation of an auxiliary force in terms of the Defence Act. This will be staffed only by artisans and they will remain in service.