Some 4400 new recruits will be joining the constituent services of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) this week, a figure down on last year and far below projections.
The Department of Defence (DoD) says 4463 “fit and deserving young South Africans from all nine provinces of the country who were successful in their quest to join the SANDF, have started to report at various SANDF military bases to commence with training.”
DoD spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi says it is likely more recruits will be called to the colours later taking the total intake for 2010 to “about 6000.”
Last January 5452 recruits reported for training. National Treasury figures show this increased to 7235 in the landward (SA Army) environment. The 2008 Military Skills Development System (MSDS) intake was 4280 and that of 2007 4518. The same Treasury tables show the final count of recruits for Financial Year 2005/6 as 4308 in the landward sphere, 4710 in FY2006/7, 4677 in FY2007/8 and 7359 for FY2008/9. (Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu in her foreword to the DoD 2009 Annual Report for FY2008/9 gives the last figure as 7357. It is not clear why there is a discrepancy. The report later makes it clear that this is a global figure: in other words, there were 7357 MSDS personnel on the nominal roll at various stages of their two years’ service on March 31, 2009. Of these 4334 had been recruited between April 1, 2008 and the end of March last year. )
Last January SANDF spokesman Lt Col Niko Allie said the military expected the figure to grow “to about 10 000 recruits by 2010.” This contrasts with a Treasury figure, in the February 2009 defence vote of 8858 for FY2010/11 and a reported figure from April last year of 11 000 “taking advantage of a R700 million allocation for that purpose in Finance Minister Trevor Manuel’s February budget.”
But Mkhwanazi says the intent is now to recruit the 10 000 only next year. However, the Treasury projection for 2011/12 is just 6874.
The DoD credits the MSDS with dramatically changing the age and health profile of the SANDF`s junior ranks.
In 2002 just 7% of the SANDF`s privates, airmen and seamen were younger than 24 years. By early 2008 the figure exceeded 43% of the regular force and 51% of the total force.
“This has had a major impact upon the medical fitness and combat-readiness of members within this rank group, specifically within the SA Army,” the department said in its 2009 annual report.
“The MSDS remains the primary mechanism through which the Department contributes towards structured military skills development, as well as occupational-functional skills development and leadership development amongst the youth,” the annual report added.
The MSDS has been in place since 2003.
After completion of their basic military training, deserving MSDS recruits are afforded an opportunity to select a specific career path which includes training for pilots and navigators, doctors, dentists, nurses, artillery, naval combat officers, divers, and so forth at state expense, noted Mkhwanazi.
SANDF recruitment website: http://www.careers.mil.za
Pic: SA Navy MSDS sailors on parade, December 2008.