Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says the two weeks of “military training” African National Congress Youth Congress president Julius Malema and his executive have been invited to undergo in September is open to all. Answering a question by Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald, she said the training will be modeled “along similar initiatives such as those in Tanzania and Bermuda, this programme is designed to engage our youth in positive and meaningful activity and is only one part of a raft of options available.”
Groenewald wanted to know what type of training Malema and his executive would be receiving; how long the training would be, how much the training would cost and where the training would be given. Sisulu answered that the “programme is a national youth programme and as such, the invitation is extended to all youth in the country. Across all political spectrum, we will be using the executive committees of all the Youth organisations to expose them to a pilot programme on national service, in the hope that they will have a better understanding of the concept.”
The minister added in her answer the National Service Programme (NSP) that she announce in her May budget vote “is expected to help the youth to contribute to national interest, both personally and professionally. The programme should, of necessity, cover a number of aspects not least the provision of technical life skills, including entrepreneurial skills. Emphasis will be placed on helping the youth to make sound career choices and enhance those skills required to make them undeniable assets to a broad range of employers.”
She could not provide costs, saying “the training modules have not been finalised and therefore no costing has been done. When it is done, proposals will be made to utilise existing funds in government.” It is not clear whether this refers to the two-week September “pilot programme” or the more substantial programme said t be set for next year. There is also no indication where the training will be provided.
Reaction to the NSP has been mixed with media commentators largely hostile to the idea and the ANCYL and others supportive.
The DoD in February said it was at least R7.5 billion underfunded for its primary mission, national defence. It has been reported that the Military Skills Development System (MSDS) costs R145 000 per person a year, meaning a system that incorporates millions of unemployed youths will potentially cost tens to hundreds of billion rand. The current MSDS system, that currently musters some 10 000 youths, is costing the DoD about R1.45 billion.