The South African National Defence Force mustered 28 500 Reserves at March 31. This emerges from the answer to a parliamentary question by Congress of the People MP LJ Tolo.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu says 12 500 Reserve Force members were called-up for the financial year to March 2010 and 14 000 was forecast for the year ending March 31, 2011. The Reserve Force supports a regular establishment of some 78 098 military and civilian personnel. Deputy defence and military veterans minister Thabang Makwetla in September 2009 noted that the Reserve “is an integral part of the defence establishment, it is not a secondary branch of the defence force. It is part of the defence force design.”
In her budget vote in April, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu listed the revitalisation of the Reserve Force as one of her six priorities for the military for the current financial year. Sisulu noted the Defence Amendment Act passed late last year makes provision for Reserve Force members in terms of their call-up to perform various duties during peacetime. “It also makes the failure to render service when called-up, without a valid reason, an offence. Part of our revitalisation of this sector has been the call-up of up to 16 000 Reserve Force members. The implementation of these Reserve Force members’ legislative provisions shall be given effect through the applicable regulations to be implemented during the course of the current financial year.
“The SANDF has developed a strategy on the transformation and revitalisation of the Reserves that will now be supported by this legislation,” Sisulu said.
The 2002 Defence Act abolished conscription introduced by its 1957 predecessor and only allowed for the compulsory mobilisation of the Reserves in case of war or a state of national defence or a state of national emergency. A memorandum attached to the Bill noted Reserve Force members currently serve on a voluntary basis or render service in terms of a contract. “The members of the Reserve Force are only obliged to serve during time of war, a state of national defence or a state of emergency. Currently not all members of the Reserve Force have entered into or are required to enter into a contract of service with the SANDF, and as a result this creates problems with regard to planning,” training and peacetime deployments.
“The Bill seeks to make it clear that all Reserve Force members are required to conclude a contract of service with the Defence Force. Such contract will set out the periods of service that a Reserve Force member is liable to render. To ensure that Reserve Force members present themselves for service when required to do so, the Bill provides that these members must comply with a call-up order. The Bill also seeks to authorise the Minister to extend the period of service of Reserve Force members, with the concurrence of the members,” the memorandum says.
The pertinent section reads that where a “Reserve Force member’s period of service terminates, lapses or expires during any form of employment contemplated in section 18(1), the Minister may, with the concurrence of such member, extend such service for a period not exceeding three months or until the conclusion of the operation, whichever is the shorter.” Reserve Force personnel may currently in peacetime serve for up to 180 days a year.
It is difficult to determine what percentage of the defence budget is spent on the Reserve Force as the defence budget vote does not provide any discernible breakdown.
Pic: Troops of Regiment de la Rey pictured at the Macadamia base, Komatipoort, while performing border duty in August 2010.