Scarce skills still bugging SANDF


A parliamentary report says attracting and retaining specific scarce skills in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been identified as one of the main challenges facing the organisation.

“Challenges in this regard do not only relate to conditions of service, but also the availability of resources to allow members to effectively discharge their responsibilities,” the report, entitled Scarce skills in the South African National Defence Force reads. Compiled by a parliamentary research unit, it notes one of the main concerns regarding the loss of scarce skills is that it impacts on service delivery objectives. “More concerning is the view that combat readiness is compromised by the inability to retain scarce skills.”

The report records that the issue is not new and that a loss of skills in the SANDF has been an ongoing concern over the years. “By 2008 the problem had reached unacceptable proportions as the Department of Defence (DoD) conceded that the poaching of soldiers, sailors, pilots and technical personnel from the SANDF, by the local and international private sector, as well as foreign governments, poses a serious threat to the country.
“To mitigate this unacceptable outflow of skills, the DoD developed various incentive schemes for a number of scarce skills groups. The financial implication of this was that a substantial portion of funds, which were allocated for operating costs, were utilised to fund these incentives. However, despite the implementation of these preventative measures, the rate of loss increased and due to the global economic situation, it started to drop off in the last two financial years,” the report adds.

The loss of scarce skills to the private sector has been identified as an organisational risk and the establishment of the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission as well as the permanent commission will assist in addressing this challenge. In addition, the overutilisation of certain scarce skills in external and internal deployments has led to a decline in job satisfaction and morale, the report notes.

Looking at the services, the report warned that the South Africa Army is experiencing challenges regarding the retention of especially technically skilled personnel working in Technical Service Corps, such as mechanics. “The SA Army is attempting to stop the outflow of these skills through the implementation of a technical allowance.”

The SA Air Force is struggling to retain especially experienced pilots and air traffic controllers. The international growth in the aviation industry has led to a huge demand for qualified air traffic controllers, operations officers, aircrew and technical personnel.

In the SA Navy, critical shortages are experienced with the technical, combat, diver, submariner and logistics domains.

The SA Military Health Service has the challenge of recruiting and remunerating health care practitioners in the Reserves. Specifically, the retention of health care practitioners such as medical officers, dentists and pharmacists is of concern, the report says. It also includes medical officers, airborne and parachute qualified members.