“Without discipline you cannot have a military force that works and the SANDF,
via a new military discipline act, is looking at empowering commanders to
ensure discipline is strictly and properly applied at unit level.”
While he admits there are “challenges” facing the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) its chief, General Solly Shoke, appears more concerned about putting boots on the ground to handle tasks given the military by government.
Speaking at AFB Waterkloof, where commanders of all units in the SANDF are currently meeting, Shoke again stressed the need for discipline in the military.
“Without discipline you cannot have a military force that works and the SANDF, via a new military discipline act, is looking at empowering commanders to ensure discipline is strictly and properly applied at unit level.”
He said the military police corps was doing “an excellent job” rooting out criminals and other undesirable elements from the SANDF. Actions such as these would also serve to strengthen discipline as criminality was removed from the ranks. The military police were also co-operating with police investigations into stolen weapons apparently destined for gangs, particularly in Western Cape.
“And it’s not only in Western Cape. All over the country the military police are investigating and working hard to stop theft of weapons, fraud and other criminal acts.”
Shoke acknowledged one of the challenges facing the South African military machine was that of personnel against operations.
“I prefer to put it the other way round with operations taking priority. That’s number one and then decisions are taken on the manpower needed to fulfil specific taskings.”
He also acknowledged the SANDF would have to shed personnel but was not prepared to give any numbers or timeframes.
What he did say was – “It’s difficult to get rid of a person who has basically stood ready to give his or her life for South Africa. One cannot just do that. Plans must be made to accommodate old soldiers. It must also be remembered these are people trained for battle and if they are not gainfully employed when out of uniform, they could become targets for gangs and other criminal elements where military training can be utilised”.
The re-establishment of the Works Regiment, now the Works Formation of the SA Army, was an avenue which had provided alternative training and gainful employment for soldiers who no longer fit the military profile, particularly in the combat role.
“Older soldiers now in the Works Formation are still doing valuable work, except it is with different equipment to keep SANDF facilities up to standard,” Shoke said.
Asked what the status of a possible deployment to support crime fighting by the SA Police Service (SAPS), he said: “As soldiers we follow orders and we haven’t received any orders in that regard yet”.
He also pointed out soldiers were not trained in crime fighting – “soldiers are trained to fight battles and win wars”.
Operation Corona, the national border protection taking entrusted to the SANDF, is one of the subjects up for discussion during the commanders’ meeting as is the mooted Border Management Authority (BMA).
Shoke said discussion about how best the military could fit in and assist were underway with the Department of Home Affairs, government’s lead agency on the BMA.
“It must be remembered, it’s not only border control points. There are also air and sea borders not to forget the thousands of kilometres of land border that does not fall into the ambit of the BMA.”