There are currently too few soldiers available to carry out all the tasks assigned to the South African Army. Chief of the Army Lieutenant General Vusumuzi Masondo says he provides two 850-person infantry battalions twice a year for peacekeeping duty and 11 infantry companies (about 165 people) on a continuous basis for border safeguarding duty.
He adds the next phase, Phase 4, will require 15 companies. “We are faced with a bit of a challenge,” Masondo said of the force-generation problem. He added this required “some revision” of even the current schedule – though he did not go into further detail.
Masondo told a media breakfast session held at the Thaba Tshwane Military Base in Pretoria that other challenges include old equipment that “required urgent renewal.” He mentioned the Defence Review process but did not elaborate on it. Nearly all the SA Army’s challenges are recorded there – with remedies – but these require Parliamentary approval and financial allocations from National Treasury.
For the moment, the Army was developing capability gaps that manifested particularly in training, in that without certain equipment specified specialist training cannot be done. The infantry and artillery were notably affected. The engineers are also stretched, with increasing operational tasks as well as requests from other government entities and the Department of Public Works.
The army chief singled out the Samil truck fleet, now over 30 years old, for special mention. He continued the Army increasingly had trouble maintaining the vehicles and conducting 1st line repair. Skills and numbers are also an issue: “We have lost a lot of capacity,” he lamented.
Also cited was Project Hoefyster, the drive to acquire a new generation infantry fighting vehicles. Masondo said the programme faced “challenges”, including cost increases. This had been resolved, but numbers now face reduction. Previous planning foresaw 264 vehicles, enough for three battalions. He declined to say more on numbers.