Changes to the Reserve Force service system have been approved by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Military Command Council, but, as with all matters defence nowadays, finance is the bugbear still to be overcome.
Apart from changes to the way South Africa’s part-time soldiers will be utilised as far as call-ups and periods of service are concerned, the number of mandays allocated looks set to remain constant. Major General Roy Andersen, Reserve Force Chief, said indications are the Reserve Force manday allocation for the coming financial year (2018/19) will remain at the same level – 2.679 million – as the year ending March 31.
The changes to the service system will also see part-time soldiers doing training on their own and not, as currently happens, alongside military skills development (MSD) volunteers.
This, according to him, has sometimes seen untrue perceptions created around full-time service in the SANDF. There are only a limited number of MSD volunteers who are offered contracts in the full-time force on completion of their two year service period. Expectations are the majority of MSDs will then join the Reserve.
In future, Reserve Force soldiers will do their training at identified nodal points across the country. To ensure the training is up to standard, specialists from the Infantry School will assist by way of providing assessments and offering advice on improving training.
Andersen said while the changes to the service system were now a fait accompli, financing them was still to come.
“I have been told to come back [to the Military Command Council] with a costing,” he said, adding there was no indication it would be included in the defence budget for 2018/2019 which will in all probability be tabled in the National Assembly later this month or early in April.
Andersen said the issue of corruption around Reserve Force call-ups was known and the necessary attention is being given to it.
For many part-time soldiers call-ups are their sole source of income and unscrupulous members have in the past taken advantage of this to extort money and provide fraudulent call-up papers.
“We know what is going on and are working with all the resources at our disposal to ensure it is stopped,” he said.