Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s wish for a national defence force that is demographically representative of South Africa has fallen on barren ground as far as the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) is concerned.
The Minister told the National Assembly there were currently 103 white volunteers undergoing military skills development training. “This is around six percent of the current intake, compared to four percent the previous one,” she said adding it still remained an area of concern and more work needs to be done.
In response, FF+ defence and security spokesman Pieter Groenewald said there was “no way” whites would join the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
“There are no career prospects for them,” he said, calling for the scrapping of affirmative action if any whites were to be attracted to careers in the full-time force.
In her budget vote speech last week, Mapisa-Nqakula said “Last year on this occasion I expressed a strong wish to have a Defence Force that reflects the demographics of our country. In pursuit of this commitment, I directed the Chief of the SANDF and Service Chiefs to target the recruitment of those under-represented communities.”
In August last year, then South African Army chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo said that the landward arm of service was targeting white youngsters as this group was not coming in in sufficient numbers. He said it was imperative that the SANDF is representative of South Africa and important for everyone to realise that the SANDF is a national asset supported by all South Africans.
Last year the SA Institute of Race Relations said the Department of Defence’s employment equity targets were changing. Black employment has dropped to 65% from 72%, Coloured employment is down to 10% from 13%, Indian employment remains at one percent and the target for whites increases from 14 to 24%.
The Minister also last week reported positively on increased gender representivity in the SANDF.
Statistics compiled in February this year show 15% (64) of command positions are now filled by women soldiers while 38% (20) of senior SANDF management positions are occupied by women.
There are now five woman major generals, 41 women brigadier generals and eight women defence attaches and assistant attaches she told Parliamentarians saying “progress continues to be made in the quest for gender equity”.
The University Reserve Training Programme (URTP) run by the SANDF Reserve Force continues and this year there are 275 university students who have completed basic military training (BMT) and are working on officer and function training during university.
“Advances in science and technology demand a highly educated and skilled defence force. The URTP is designed to enable the defence force to recruit the brightest and best from our tertiary institutions.
“There is great demand among university students to join this programme but a lack of funding has stunted its growth. This is regrettable as it denies the SANDF the opportunity to recruit critical skills into the Reserves and Regulars,” she said.