Durban - A “culture of incompetence” was potentially being created in the SA Navy, a high-ranking officer warned in a hard-hitting address to a change of command parade in Durban.
“Too many members do not care about the quality of their work, timeliness of doing it, and, in some cases, whether the work gets done at all,” said Rear Admiral (Junior Grade) David Maningi Mkhonto, the flag officer commanding Naval Base Simon’s Town.
He was at Naval Station Durban to officially hand over the telescope of command to the new officer commanding, Commander Celane Eugene Khumalo, on Friday.
“Some of us notice these things and do nothing. By keeping quiet and not acting on this behaviour, we are assisting in creating a system that rewards inefficiency and incompetence,” he said.
“This is a deep systemic challenge that is draining away both our ability to create a better South African Navy, and the belief that we will ever get there: where we must provide the service as mandated by the Chief (of the) Navy. We are potentially creating a labour force that is starting to expect to be rewarded no matter their ability to produce the goods.”
Typical behaviour of military incompetence was “storming out” of work early or just hanging around until 4pm, being unproductive and not reporting for duty.
It was up to commanders to report people who were absent without leave within 72 hours, as “the state cannot afford to pay sailors who are absent without leave or permission, and it clearly doesn’t need them in the service”, he said.
When officers are promoted but not called on to perform at that level of effectiveness, “we perpetuate an expectation that poor performance is acceptable (and) by doing so, we are building into the system a mechanism that protects this poor performance and entrenches non-delivery as a norm.”
The Rear Admiral also said it was morally and legally unacceptable to steal from a workplace that put bread on the table - and warned that transgressors would be sacked. The navy would ensure they would never be employed by the state again.
He said later that copper piping and geysers had been stolen from an unoccupied building at Naval Station Durban.
The building, once occupied by the army, was neglected when the navy downgraded from a base to a station, and the thefts had been discovered now that it was being upgraded back to a fully-operational base. Two people had been charged.
He called on the ship’s company to support their new commander as he battled with the day-to-day management of the station while also trying to incorporate the new developments.
There were many envious officers who would love the chance to tackle the history-making challenges that would have to be overcome, Rear Admiral Mkhonto said.
Three offshore patrol vessels (previously known as strike-craft) were now at the station he told the parade, adding that the workshops and associated ship repair facilities would also be returning to Durban.
Referring to the planned changes, Chief of Navy Staff, Rear Admiral Rusty Higgs, told a later gathering that: “We want to make sure that Durban becomes significant again.”
Commander Khumalo, 41, who hails from KwaMashu, has taken over from the acting officer commander, Lieutenant-Commander Rachael Dumalo, who was temporarily appoint-ed when Commander Patrick Mgquba was killed in a car accident at the end of May.
Khumalo, a former Umkhonto we Sizwe member, who integrated into the SANDF in 1996, said he was looking forward to his new job, and the challenge would be to understand people’s mindsets.