Improved support for soldiers, families


South African military salaries will be adjusted to recognise years of service in an effort aimed at improving their low salaries and boost morale in the military, Minster of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says.

“We are essentially de-linking salaries from rank because of the sheer size of the defence force, a great number of our soldiers are trapped in particular ranks with no prospect improvement of their salaries,” added Sisulu.

Speaking during her department’s budget vote she noted the Defence Force Service Commission is tasked to deal with this as a matter of priority. She added that it will take eight months for the work to be completed with adjustments reflecting from the next financial year. “This will be a much needed breakthrough that soldiers have been burdened with. It is now within our sight,” she said.

Sisulu also announced that her department was looking at a housing allowance scheme tailor made to suit the organisational uniqueness of the SA National Defence Force. “There are numerous soldiers in the SANDF who unknowingly sacrifice their financial future in addition to all the other sacrifices they make by not investing in an essential asset of home ownership. We intend to negotiate a pact with financial institutions where as the employer can stand part guarantee to negotiate more favourable rates with financial institutions in a collective manner.” A housing guarantee, she added will be provided to all members applying to purchase property so that no soldier should ever retire without a house and the asset it provides.

Sisulu further stated that all children of soldiers deployed between the ages of three months to five years will be taken care of by the state within the existing framework of free primary school care criteria for deployed soldiers. “A soldier gives his entire time and life to the State. The State takes on the responsibility to look after him as a unit of his family, the children of the soldiers are therefore our responsibility. When their mothers are deployed in the DRC or Sudan we should ensure the children’s welfare is not compromised,” said Sisulu.

She continued these measures she hopes will not only improve the living conditions of soldiers but also ensure that discipline is maintained within the ranks. “We are working on all these benefits for soldiers, but I want to remind them for every benefit there is a responsibility. I want to remind them that the compact that I enter into with them on behalf of government is that they will be leading lights of society, I demand from them a service to the state that will honour the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.”

In addition, about 20 000 youth will be trained on various skills as part of the National Youth Service. “The proposed National Youth Service is intended to play a key role in dealing with the consequences of youth unemployment and contribute to the national goal of poverty eradication,” she said. She added that the service will not offer training for military engagement, but will draw on the potential of military training to promote discipline, self esteem and sense of belonging to the national community. “We have currently embarked on the identification, upgrading and refurbishment of some of our training facilities and at the beginning of next year we will have completed our preparations,” said Sisulu.

Sisulu also added that her department will now manage all of its assets previously managed by the Department of Public Works. As part of self managing its assets the department is currently renovating many of its barracks to be worthy of living soldiers. Provision of high quality, reliable and right-sized accommodation for soldiers is her singularly most urgent priority, Sisulu said. “However I need to stress that it is the responsibility of every soldier to ensure that the environment where they stay represents their sense of pride,” added Sisulu.

Earlier on during a media briefing Sisulu told journalists that more ten rhino poachers have been killed to date by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) while patrolling the country’s borders. She said her department was working tirelessly to curb the increasing rate of rhino killings however budgetary constrains made it difficult to patrol all borders. “While we are doing all our best to protect our borders and ensure that our rhino’s are protected from criminals we have noticed that poachers are now moving from targeting areas such as the Kruger National Park to private game reserves where we have no force deployed.

An increased budget, she added, will ensure that all borders are protected accordingly.

She added that the current global economic environment that continues to be robust and uncertain, resulting in pressures being exerted on Defence budgets across the world. “This requires that we continue to seek to achieve higher levels of efficiency in all our operations and more precise targeting towards the achievement of our key priorities, though we must add that the Defence budget cannot afford to take further cuts” she said.