Speech by the Chief of the SA Army

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SPEECH BY THE CHIEF OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN ARMY LIEUTENANT GENERAL VR MASONDO AT THE MEDIA BREAKFAST, SA ARMY COLLEGE, THABA TSHWANE, 23 AUGUST 2012.

Programme Director

Head of Communication

Members of the Army Command Council

Our Esteemed Guests, Members of the Media

May I take this opportunity to welcome you this morning in my official capacity as the Chief of the South African Army, having taken command of the SA Army a year ago which came about as a result of the retirement of the former Chief of the South African National Defence Force, General Ngwenya. This led to the appointment of General Shoke as CSANDF, which left a vacancy in the SA Army. I would therefore like to thank our principals for giving me this opportunity to lead the SA Army, and the trust that they have in me to lead such an organisation.

Since taking over this job you may wonder what has taken me so long to make time to meet with you as an institution as I believe that we must create a partnership. It is truly satisfying to note the manner in which the media fraternity welcomed my appointment as the new Chief of the SA Army. I received very humbling and encouraging reports about this appointment and this made me believe that as the SA Army, we need to develop and sustain a mutually beneficial relationship with the media. As members of the media, I believe that you have a responsibility to inform and educate the public about the SA Army as we are part of the whole of society.

The media has been supportive of the SA Army’s efforts and has provided positive coverage on the SA Army events when requested and we want to enhance that relationship with you. Indeed this relationship, positive it may be, is fragile, and that is what we must work towards dealing with. We will do our bit and hope you can meet us halfway in so doing.

This Media Breakfast, in my view is one way of opening channels for the media to engage with the Chief of the SA Army and the senior leadership of the SA Army on all matters of media interest. The SA Army is committed to creating a warm and positive atmosphere between the SA Army and the media. We would like to invite the media to form part of our change management and our efforts aimed at educating and informing ordinary South African citizens about the Defence Force, in particular the SA Army.

We are aware that you as the media have your own deadlines for your newspapers and would like to assure you that we will endeavour to meet your requirements.

However, we kindly urge you to be considerate of our channel of command as at all times we need to process our responses to you following military procedures. Some of you have experienced that it takes too long to obtain relevant information within the military structures; however, we as the SA Army will do our best to meet your deadlines.

It is true that some of our members run to the media whenever they have grievances. This portrays a negative image of the SA Army and adversely impacts on the image of South Africa as a whole. Without prescribing to you, we would like to urge you not to allow yourselves to be used by some of our members to raise their issues through you, by skipping the channels of command. On the other hand, we realise that we must also be responsible enough to deal with matters pertaining to our members.

Members of the Media, ladies and gentlemen

Understanding that prosperity cannot take root in the context of social and political instability, the Constitution enjoins the Defence Force to protect and safeguard the territorial integrity of the Republic and its people. Over a period of time South Africa’s strategic environment has changed drastically and continues to change. Thus as part of the Defence Force we have a critical role to play in the socio-economic development of our country.

I have taken over this job at very interesting times in our Defence Force. Interesting because we are faced with several challenges which I believe will bring the best out of our men and women that I lead in the SA Army. The Defence Force has seen many positive changes in the past 3 years which has boosted the morale of our members. To name but a few, we have seen the establishment of the National Defence Force Service Commission, the development of the Grievance Procedures Policies and the establishment of the Office of the Military Ombud, the first of its kind in South Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen these changes will go a long way to ensuring that our members are looked after and get the best that they deserve, because they serve the nation. We are also witnesses to the work of the Defence Review Committee, which will lead to a defence policy that will guide us for the next 30 – 40 years. These are all critical to the well-being of the Defence Force of our country.

I am mentioning these issues because they have a direct impact on how the SA Army should prepare itself and move forward. In any military organisation human resources are very critical for a defence force to function optimally. Thus the reason why we should strive to make sure that our members are indeed happy at all times. Where we falter we should endeavour to improve by learning from those mistakes. As we all know, our Defence Force must be a well-structured military force that adheres to the Code of Conduct and the rules and regulations of the Defence Force.

We want to affirm our deepest commitment to achieving the full spectrum of our Constitutional Mandate, ensuring the successful attainment of its output, including the meeting of its ordered commitments, mission – ready defence capabilities, sound defence direction and defence compliance within the Regulatory Framework. This will be framed by a value system which foremost upholds such values as discipline, transparency, fairness, excellence through leadership, honesty and integrity.

The environment in which we operate requires new thinking and new approaches. To this end, we remain committed to creating a dependable, agile and flexible human capital base in the SA Army.

Since my appointment I have impressed at all times to the SA Army senior commanders that we must lead by example and make sure that our members are at all times our priority. It is my view that when needs of the members are taken care of we are bound to see positive results in our Army.

Over the past few months I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, visiting our units and have just completed this visit programme. This has been of great significance to me and my team, where we were exposed to first hand information. This gave me insight into the current status of the SA Army and further laid a firm foundation for me and the entire leadership of the SA Army to develop strategies that will enable us to deal with all the challenges that were identified.

It is common knowledge to all of us that our soldiers are facing challenges such as using facilities that are dilapidated, and have to improvise to execute their functions. The reversal of the deteriorating infrastructure of the DOD requires both financial and technical capacity. In order to address the declining state of defence infrastructure, a process between our department and the Department of Public Works to deal with the matter is underway.

For us to deal with this issue, the Defence Works Capability, which is an in-house capacity to maintain and repair defence facilities, has been established. We hope that in the not too distant future, we would have created a fully fledged capacity to maintain our facilities ourselves. This will go a long way to making sure that our members occupy habitable and safe places, where they will be able to carry out their duties, free of any hazards. It is safe to report that the upgrading process is underway in many units with the DOD Works Regiment focusing on addressing minor and immediate challenges.

I am sure by now you would like to know where we are with regard to the situation involving the members who marched to the Union Buildings. That matter is being handled by the higher headquarters and I cannot give further details. These members have, however, been informed to report to their home units on 16 August 2012 at 08:00 am where they would be informed of the outcome of their conduct.

We have gone a very long way as the SA Army to ensure that our members understand the recently instituted Grievance Procedures in the DOD. CHR processes are underway to capacitate our commanders on the ground to deal with members’ grievances. We will soon roll out the grievance system that will allow members to air their grievances in every military unit. Members with grievances are encouraged to register their grievances on the system available at all SA Army units. This will also ensure that the general officers commanding of different SA Army formations have an insight into all grievances aired at the units under their command and that these are processed according to the regulations.

Members of the SA Army are encouraged to use the grievance system that has been established instead of voicing their grievances through the media. Thus, I indicated earlier that we should guard against you being used for something that could have been resolved internally. We do have members whose genuine problems may fall through the cracks, which may cause delays in resolving them and we take full responsibility for such cases. There are, however, cases where members simply run to the media with the hope that we will be pressured through the media to change certain decisions we have taken. I must point out that we will not allow that to happen.

Members of the media

I indicated that as much as we have challenges in the SA Army like in all other institutions, we have had success too. Besides internal budgetary challenges that we are facing, the SA Army does tremendously well whenever we are called upon to undertake certain duties. The SA Army has a responsibility to provide highly trained forces to ensure a high level of security for our country. Since our return to the borders, we have been able to work with other agencies to intervene to curb criminality along our borders. Our troops confiscate contraband and prevent it from being smuggled into the country. There is also a noticeably sharp decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country and we have prevented and continue to combat cross-border crimes.

Part of our commitments is to curb rhino poaching in the South African National Parks, and there are numerous cases where we have shown our strength and intention to the poachers by arresting them. We have been called upon to assist other government departments with personnel who have joined the Department of Home Affairs and are currently stationed at OR Tambo as immigration officials. Successes have been registered in this area and we are very proud of our members who continue to hold our flag very high.

Through our engineer capability, we have constructed a number of bridges where communities have found it difficult to cross rivers during rainy seasons. This has happened in the Eastern Cape, where we constructed 3 bridges for different communities. During the Mandela Month, we have drawn ourselves closer to the communities by identifying and adopting a number of charities by providing assistance to the disabled, orphans and old-age homes.

Last but not least, I would like to touch on the discipline and what makes a soldier. As we know our Constitution clearly stipulates that the Defence Force must be structured and managed as a disciplined military force. In view of the above, as the Chief of the SA Army, I commit to ensuring that discipline is not compromised in the SA Army, and is at all times upheld by members of the SA Army. It starts with our leaders, spreads down to the subordinates, and it is with this background that the leadership of the SA Army demonstrates a high level of discipline so that the juniors can follow suit.

In our view a soldier comprises certain elements that are found in what we look for in a person and these are: to act instinctively to given commands, adapt to various leadership styles, demonstrate commitment to success, impartiality and effectiveness in reaching a goal, demonstrate behaviour that is ethical, honest and transparent, promoting respect for life, pledge oneself unconditionally to a cause, display loyalty towards country and citizens amongst others.

This is what we expect from each member of the SA Army, nothing more and nothing less.

I thank you

CHIEF OF THE SA ARMY MEDIA BREAKFAST: 23 AUGUST 2012

ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN

Focus areas to be cleared before the Media Breakfast:
1. Renewal of SA Army Reservists’ contracts (Beeld)

Reserve Force members whose call-up expired at the end of June 2012 were locked outside the SA Army HQ perimeters on 02 July 2012. The response to the enquiry from the Beeld newspaper indicated that the Chief of the SA Army was not available to sign the requests for continuation of the members’ call-up as he was on his visit to SA Army units in the Western Cape. A decision was taken by the Army Expenditure Control Committee (AECC) to inform members not to come to work until their call-up were renewed.
2. Water shortages at SA Army Combat Training Centre (Beeld)

Learners and staff members of SA Army CTC had experienced constant problems of water shortages and unavailability of warm water since the beginning of this winter. The SA Army is not in total control of the infrastructural challenges experienced by the personnel in Lohatlha Military Base as we depend on the Department of Public Works to replace old underground water pipes running, however, the Section Base Maintenance has called contractors to fix geysers and the process is expected to be finalised shortly. It was also alleged that a learner who was burnt while boiling water could not get assistance at the sickbay. To our knowledge; the medical facility in Lohatlha is fully operational and assists learners and staff members when they report sick.
3. Suspensions in the SA Army (Beeld, DFA and Volksblad)

The Chief of SANDF, Gen Shoke, is the final convening authority who authorises suspension of any person in the DOD, and it is important to note that a person can only be suspended after he/she had appeared before a Court of Military Judges and/or civilian court. Presently, there are quite a few SA Army members who are suspended pending the outcome of their court cases. Further details can be obtained from the Defence Legal Satellite Office with regard to the processes followed when suspending individuals. The suspensions of Brig Gen Cebeni (GOC ASB Bloemfontein) and Col Van Dyk (former OC ASB Potchefstroom) are being handled by the C SANDF in close liaison with LEGSATO.
4. Death of a Recruit at Infantry School (Beeld)

It is true that a recruit collapsed while in the unit perimeters. The member was part of the grouping of female learners who were waiting outside the sickbay to undergo their routine pregnancy tests as she collapsed. The medical staff at the unit attended to her situation, and before her illness could be diagnosed, she died on the scene. The couse of the death is still under investigation.
5. Changing OCs of SA Army Infantry Reserves units (Freelancer)

The GOC SA Army Infantry Formation deemed it necessary to change some officers commanding of SA Army Infantry Reserve units who seemed to have failed take the unit to the next level. The decision was influenced solely by the performance of the said members. There were no personal or racial reasons for these changes as was reported by the freelance journalist who sold the article to various press houses.
6. Break- in at ASB Potchefstroom Cash Point (Beeld)

An amount of R169 000 was stolen, the computer central processing unit (CPU) with its monitor as well as an unconfirmed number of flash drives and hard drives were stolen during this burglary. It is reported that the back door of the main building where the FACS Office is situated was broken, and both cashier’s cubicles were forced open. An initial report from the unit indicated that two safes were forced open by thieves to gain access to the money locked the safes. The SAPS Forensic and Detective Unit is investigating the incident.
7. Allegations of fraternisation against the OC ASB Jhb (Beeld)

Unconfirmed allegations were levelled against the OC ASB Johannesburg suggesting that he had numerous extra-marital relationships with his subordinates in the unit. It was also stated that a female member in his unit was undergoing divorce proceedings due to her affair with the OC. It is alleged that young MSDS female personnel were made to believe that the OC would secure them contracts in the regular force system should they submit to his sexual demands. The GOC Army Sup Fmn provided a response to the enquiry from the Beeld, however the still under investigations.
8. Flawed Procurement System at ASU Western Cape (Beeld)

Presently, an investigation is being conducted by the Military Police Agency and LEGSATO Prosecutions Authority trying to elicit the reasons that lead to the former officer commanding ignoring the procurement process that is followed throughout- the DOD. The investigation is being conducted by the DOD.

End….