SANDF to spend R23 million on Umzimvubu Regiment callup remuneration

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More than 800 volunteers who responded to a callup during the July 2021 unrest will finally be paid, three years and two Boards of Inquiry (BOI) later.

The callup seemingly deteriorated into chaos with a lack of personnel records added to insufficient accommodation, among others, resulting in a Board of Inquiry set up to investigate. That it did not meet its objectives became clear when a review was called for. This also did not measure up and a second BOI had to re-investigate. The saga has made it to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Legal Services Division and the Auditor-General’s office. After the second BOI, ‘corrective measures’ were recommended, including volunteers paid for their time.

In total, 815 volunteers reported at Umzimvubu Regiment from 17 July 2021 in response to the Operation Prosper callup following riots and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng that year. The last group left on 23 September 2021. Enlistment and callup processes were not followed by SA Army Infantry Formation together with Umzimvubu Regiment and only 200 volunteers were officially enlisted.

This week the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans heard progress made by the Department of Defence regarding the Umzimvubu Regiment callup saga.

The Minister of Defence has given authority to remunerate those called up and to date, 106 files that meet all audit requirements have been completed and are in the process of being remunerated while 708 files are still being audited, the Department of Defence said in its presentation.

Payment of members who meet the audit requirements is scheduled for 15 March this year. Payment of two members with recoverable departmental debts are to be put on hold while finalising the recovery process.

“Furthermore, there are 18 members who are deceased and their payment will also be put on hold until the correct beneficiaries have been confirmed,” the Department of Defnce said.

Estimated expenditure on the volunteers’ remuneration will be R23 million. The callup is estimated to have cost a total of more than R28.5 million, including bus tickets (R233 000), military transport (R81 342), rations from commercialised messes (R4.2 million), administration and logistic “needs/requirements” (R54 498) and salaries for enlistees (R23 920 148).

An audit process will ensure that the Umzimvubu Regiment members are correctly remunerated for the period of their participation in Operation Prosper, according to Chief Human Resources, Vice Admiral Asiel Kubu.