The Department of Defence (DoD) apparently plans to reverse racial quotas in the recruitment process so more whites and fewer blacks will be in uniform.
The latest South African Survey by the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) shows the South African military plans to employ more whites and fewer blacks, reports Johannesburg daily The Times.
The defence force admits there is a shortage of white personnel but said recruitment drives are not based on racial quotas.
The SAIRR survey shows the DoD’s employment equity targets are changing with its black employment target dropping from the current 72% to 65%; Coloured employment also drops from 13% to 10%; Indian employment will remain at 1%: and the target for whites will increase from 14% to 24%.
The Institute’s figures are based on information contained in the defence department’s annual report and on its own calculations.
Stats SA’s 2015 mid-year population estimates show blacks represent 80% of the population, coloureds 8.8%, whites 8.2% and Indians 2.4%.
Research undertaken by the SAIRR shows there are huge numbers of vacancies in the military’s land and air defence, medical, and defence intelligence services.
According to the paper the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) currently has 57 141 black, 10 991 white, 10 099 coloured and 916 Indian members.
SAIRR researcher Kerwin Lebone said the organisation had repeatedly asked the SANDF to explain its recruitment plans but to no avail.
“We believe a skills shortage – especially of members able to operate equipment bought during the arms deal and subsequent acquisitions – is the reason,” he said.
“There are not enough skilled people in the defence force. It’s no secret equipment is lying around because no one can operate it. Look at the air force and its grounded fighter jets, which can’t be flown because there are hardly any pilots.”
Lebone told the paper when the defence force started to get rid of whites to bring it into conformity with national demographics it could not have foreseen that new equipment would need people with experience or skills.
“Because of this, one of the things the defence force is doing is hiring skilled personnel. It takes time to train people.”
Lebone added: “The principles of black economic empowerment must be weighed against what’s important for the country.”
SA National Defence Union (Sandu) national secretary Pikkie Greeff said the military found itself in this position because “when they started awarding exit packages they let go too many of the racial groupings they now want to increase”.
Defence Department spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini admitted there was a shortage of full-time white members but denied there were plans to change racial quotas.
“In terms of the 2014 South African Defence Review, the department’s personnel system must adhere to the principles of equity and equal opportunities.
“The SANDF’s recruitment campaigns include high schools and tertiary institutions. Potential white recruits are also reached and invited to consider following a military career,” he said.