The South African Army says key requirements needed for promotion from one rank to the other include the availability of vacancies, right qualifications, one’s performance and potential as well as experience and security classification.
Chief of the Army, Lieutenant-General Vusimuzi Masondo along with high ranking officials briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence on issues around transformation. Masondo said that experience alone would not amount to promotion, citing that discipline was also a factor. He said this was also influenced by the number of available posts and “there is competition for fewer posts at the top…the higher you go the fewer the posts.”
His colleague, Major-General Sazi Veldtman added that promotion could not be done in a vacuum. Each vacant post has its requirements and performance was one of the most important factors for promotion. On transformation, their presentation showed that “55% of Africans were in management, along with white people who constituted 39% while 6.1% were Coloureds and 0.1 Asians,” the state BuaNews agency said.
It was also indicated to the committee that some white recruits were leaving the Army citing that they were not promoted. The organisation said that although transformation seemed to be proceeding smoothly, the “lack of an attractive exit mechanism is still a concern.” This resulted in members not wanting to leave in order to pave the way for others. The delegation also complained that their human resources budget was higher than that for operations.
Although the team seemed prepared for the meeting, it was requested to return to Parliament early next year and provide more answers to MPs questions as well as to make a specific presentation on posts in the Army.
The committee also expressed concern at the alleged abuse of women soldiers in the Army. Committee co-chair Sediane Danny Montsitsi said they had heard complaints from female soldiers that, for example, during deployment, insufficient tents were provided for women resulting in some having to share tents with their male colleagues. This, he said, created a suitable environment for the abuse of women. He said the alleged abuse was also taking place in army bases. Montsitsi said some of the abused women were afraid to come out and report it.
Masondo said the defence force took the issue of women abuse seriously. Conceding to the problem, he said such incidents usually took place among new recruits. He indicated that they had picked up cases where female recruits had been impregnated by their instructors. “Disciplinary action has been taken in some of the cases,” he said.
During the presentation, it also emerged that women were still not fairly represented in the Army, as they accounted only for 19% of the total, while men were in the majority with 81%. Masondo said that they wanted to see more women represented. His view was echoed by Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, Major-General M.E Phako. He told the committee that Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was vigorously calling for gender balance in the military. “She (Sisulu) is giving orders and she wants answers,” he said. As compared to the past, Phako said that progress was being made in promoting women. He cited that at the dawn of the new South Africa in 1994, it was a rule in the Army that women should not advance beyond the rank of brigadier.
Their presentation showed that currently, there were seven African females and three white females serving as brigadier-generals while 38 others were serving as colonels. The majority of these were white who were followed by blacks. Phako said that former President Nelson Mandela chipped in to make sure that more women could be promoted.