The foot-slogging infantry soldier has for many, many years been the backbone of militaries around the world and will remain that for the foreseeable future. In South Africa this role is filled by people who are, on average, 38 years old.
Responses to questions posed by both ANC and Democratic Alliance (DA) MPs during a recent Portfolio Committee on Defence meeting also brought to light the average age of general staff (admirals and generals) is 54 while the “middle management” level of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) which includes colonels and SA Navy captains, is 41.
An analysis undertaken by a parliamentary research unit shows the total personnel strength of the Department of Defence (DoD) including the Department of Military Veterans and the national defence force for the 2017/18 financial year was 75 051. When measured against a planned personnel strength of 74 649 this is an increase of 402.
The analysis goes on to point out that milestone one of the Defence Review “speaks to a significant reduction in force levels if the levels of funding remain the same” and the indication by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in her introduction to the annual report that personnel levels in the DoD would not be reduced.
It also lists the national defence force as having one general (SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke), eight lieutenant generals and vice admirals, 40 major generals and rear admirals and170 brigadier generals and rear admirals (junior grade).
The analysis states this is “a high number of generals by international standards” and asks Portfolio Committee members to follow up as regards efforts to reduce the number of generals as part of overall force rejuvenation.