Last month the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) increased personnel numbers by just over 2 000 in what Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula called “part of the rejuvenation of the force”.
The exact numbers of the January intake, each year part of the military skills development system (MSDS), show the SA Army, the largest component of the defence force, getting the largest number – 1 574 – of volunteers.
They will, after completion of basic military training, find themselves deployed to one of the nine formations that make up the landward force. They are air defence artillery, armour, artillery, engineer, infantry, intelligence, signal, support and training.
The maritime arm of the SANDF was next highest gaining 214 new recruits and Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane and his command council will be keen to keep as many as possible of these naval newcomers in uniform on a permanent basis. This is because the Navy knows it will, within the next few years, take ownership of at least seven new vessels which have to be crewed.
Tenders will be called for this year for three inshore and three offshore patrol vessels as well as a new hydrographic ship to replace the SAS Protea.
The patrol vessels are seen as contributing to last year’s announcement by President Jacob Zuma of Operation Phakisa on boosting the ocean economy.
South Africa has long been a leading and valued member of the international hydrographic community, producing detailed charts of the earth’s southern oceans as well as South Africa’s own exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In terms of the Benguela Convention South Africa will contribute hydrographic expertise to mapping resources on the west coast up to and including Angola.
The SA Military Health Service (SAHMS) has 175 newcomers to its ranks and the SA Air Force, which this year marks its 95th anniversary, boosts personnel numbers by 80. They will spend the formative part of their MSDS years at the Air Force Gymnasium near AFB Hoedspruit before being posted to various squadrons and units.
Annually thousands of applications are received from volunteers wanting to be part of the SANDF’s military skills development programme but cost constraints mean only around 2 000 can be accepted.