SA military in crisis - SASFU

Union says there's massive corruption, top structure heavily inflated

The Crisis in the South African Military Forces

For the first time since 1994, an in-depth analysis of the state of our forces has been conducted by SASFU. These include the state of the services in the South African National defence Force (SANDF), the Army, SA Air Force, SA Navy, SA Military Health Service, the Military Veterans Department as well as the Military Veterans Associations.

The overall conclusion comes to the lack of political and Military leadership to give direction to our forces. The analysis exposes Military Commanders who spend more time running their personal businesses and spending part time in the Defence Force. The reassessment of the need for revolutionary transformation of the SANDF exposes the following particular issues raised outline lack of leadership, greed and corruption.

Illegal indefinite suspensions

The fact that members who participated in a protest march in August 2009 are still on suspension since then, getting their salaries from the taxpayers' money, highlights an aggressive leadership that has no direction and failing to recognise human rights as per the constitution of the country.

The indefinite suspension of these members has legal, social as well as financial impacts on the soldiers, and their families as well as the state.

On legal, the North Gauteng High Court has ruled several times against the minister of defence on these suspensions. On social, both the court ruling and the defence Act 42 of 2002 specify the benefits of the soldiers which have been violated by the minister of Defence and Military Veterans.

These benefits include the right to be buried with dignity as members of the Defence force, rights to military health system, right to promotion as well as right to education training and development. The political and military leadership have and continue to flout these rights with impunity.

On financial, it is a worry to us that the financial resources in this regard are not used efficiently when paying millions of rands in salaries to members who are sitting at home as well as legal costs being incurred but the cabinet and the commander in chief are scared of questioning the minister of Defence and Military Veterans in this regard. It is clear that there is no case against these members because if there was, the Defence Force has a military justice system which subjects members to military courts, but the minister of Defence and Military Veterans has elected to undermine those systems.

Inflated top structure

There are a number of Generals and Admirals on suspension for years but they continue to get huge sums of money every month. Some Generals are concentrating on running their own businesses and are only part time in the Defence force where they are employed. There is a big problem of an inflated top structure of the SANDF with too many Generals and Admirals to an extent that for every platoon there is a General.

In 1994 the strength of the SA Navy was about 12000 with only about seven flag officers. The size of the SA Navy was almost halved since then but the number of Flag Officers increased to more than 60. We call for a review to decrease posts for flag officers and employ more soldiers at the lower ranks.


There are massive corruption activities happening in the SANDF linked to Military leadership that is destroying capacity of the force so that their companies can provide services. Critical health services have been outsourced to private hospitals which are run by current and former Generals of the SANDF.

The renovation period of the 1 Military Hospital is deliberately prolonged in order to create a leeway for the outsourcing of services and the department of public works must investigate and disclose how much the revamping has so far cost the tax payer. The Air force does not train pilots anymore but pilots are trained by private companies which are either owned by the serving or retired senior leadership of the SANDF.

No succession

Education, training and development is deliberately put in abeyance in order to create space for the retired former SADF personnel to come back to the force as providers of scarce skills. This action is hampering transformation efforts in training and development of black people within the SANDF. This state of affairs means that the current top leadership will never be replaced as there is no development for their succession hence people like General Gagiano, Chief of the SA Air Force are kept on even when they volunteer to leave the Defence Force.

White reserve force members are employed in active posts and are running the Defence Force whilst young black reserve force members are only called to man the gates. Some black members of the regular force are super numeral whilst white reserve force members are employed in their posts. The reserve force is also used for corrupt practices as ghost soldiers are being paid salaries.

No proper database

The ministry of Military Veterans with almost 3 years in existence is still without data base of veterans who are at the receiving end of the Apartheid legacy. The only organized data base is an 850 000 strength of white former SADF veterans who have benefited in the previous regime but stand to be the first line beneficiaries of the newly formed ministry of military veterans.

According to the Deputy Director General of socio-economic support services, the data base has not been updated since 2005 and the former SADF Veterans have the largest number of representatives on the data base. When the Veterans Department was attached to the Defence Force alignment had not been done to amend the Defence Act to provide clear lines of command, control and management.

Service Core of the Defence Force which accommodated SANDF Reserves was changed to works regiment and veterans were attached to it but the Defence force refuses to accommodate these military veterans in making use of defence forces facilities showing huge contradictions between the states promise and the SANDF for implementation. These veterans do not even have authority to attend military hospitals in order to get medical services, the only fortunate veterans are those who previously served in the SADF as they are accommodated.

Sexual victims

The Military Skills Development Program (MSDS) and the National Youth Service have failed to address skills development. The initial intention for the MSDS program was the rejuvenation of the SANDF and to have a skilled young but developed reserve force. Some of the youth employed under the MSDS come with educational qualifications needing the SANDF to enhance their skills but they end up at the gate being used as gate guards. We have for more than 3 years now been calling for the MSDS program to be extended from 2 to at least 5 years and a concentrated development program in line with the Skills Acts of the country to be designed. These youth have become sexual victims of high ranking military officers.

Most of these youth are employed HIV negative but exit the system HIV positive. Generals are divorcing their wives and getting married to the youth that came for skills development. The National Youth Service was intended by the current minister of Defence and Military Veterans to be an SANDF contribution to a disciplined youth of our country.

It is becoming more evident that the SANDF needs to spend time to ensure that there is discipline in the force before taking role to discipline the whole society. The SANDF must discontinue taking responsibility that it cannot carry.

As SASFU we cannot keep quiet and watch the majority black youth being destroyed by the SANDF.

Conclusion and Way forward

It is very clear that the ruling party does not have any policy for the military hence all the ministers since 1994 use their common sense to run such an important institution of our country. The current minister of Defence and Military Veterans has reversed most of the achievements in the defence Force with respect to transformation.

It is very clear that the style of leadership of the current minister is a good recipe for counter revolution in this country. It is high time that the commander in chief starts to play an active role and close supervision of military leadership and discontinue appointing incompetent leaders to positions of military leadership. We are also calling the public protector to investigate corruption in the SANDF and also report to the public on the number of grievances submitted to her department by the members of the SANDF.

Statement issued by Bhekinkosi Mvovo, SASFU President and Fieldmore Mapeto Langa, SASFU National Organiser, February 26 2012

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