South Africa: Defence Department Must Urgently Consider Appointment of Chief Defence Reserves and Chairperson of Reserve Force Council

Parliament, Friday, 10 November 2023 – The Joint Standing Committee on Defence has called for the appointment of the Chief Defence Reserves to drive the strategic implementation of the decisions taken at the Reserve Force Indaba II. The committee remains of the view that the Reserve Force plays a critical role in the further development of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and without a permanent leader to drive the strategic role of the reserves might negatively impact decision-making as the SANDF makes decisions about the future.

“The SANDF is currently undergoing a review process on the role, cost and rejuvenation of the reserve force and this process should have included the ideas and foresight of a permanent Chief Defence Reserves to ensure that in the medium to long terms the incumbent implements a strategic outlook they would contributed to shaping,” said Mr Cyril Xaba, the Co-Chairperson of the committee.

The committee remains concerned that the average age for the reserves is 46 and is ever-increasing, which require strategies to ensure rejuvenation and enhance viability. Also concerning to the committee is that the reduction in budgets will lead a further decline of the reserves over the medium term. These concerns would best be driven and solved by a permanent Chief Defence Reserves.

Meanwhile, the committee appreciated the announcement that the Reserve Force Indaba II has sat and engaged to develop the reserve’s strategic role and direction in delivering on the SANDF’s mandate. The committee has requested that the final product to be adopted at the Reserve Force Indaba III be tabled to enable the committee to make its own contribution.

The committee has also called for the SANDF to urgently determine the status of the ±7 500 members who have not been called up in the past five years, as identified in 2018/19. The current number of reserves not called up stands at 5 233 but the committee has emphasised the need for the Department of Defence to work with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the PERSOL system is functional.

The committee also is aware of the reserve’s critical importance, make especially their surge capability and in the provision of specialist skills to the SANDF.

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