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Pretoria - A number of challenges facing the SA Army have been outlined by army chief, Lieutenant-General Vusumuzi Masondo.
These include escalating costs and facilities that are dilapidated, resulting in soldiers having to improvise to execute their functions.
Addressing a media breakfast at Thaba Tshwane in Pretoria last week, Masondo said the reversal of the deteriorating infrastructure of the Department of Defence required financial and technical capacity.
To address the declining state of defence infrastructure, a process between the departments of Defence and Public Works is under way.
Masondo said: “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.”
According to Masondo, this will go a long way to making sure the soldiers occupy habitable and safe places, “where they will be able to carry out their duties, free of any hazards”.
The upgrading process is under way in many units with the Department of Defence works regiment focusing on addressing minor and immediate challenges.
Masondo said much as there are challenges in the army, as in all other institutions, “we have had successes too”.
“Besides internal budgetary challenges that we are facing, the SA Army has done tremendously well whenever we are called upon to do certain duties.
“The SA Army has the responsibility to provide highly trained forces to ensure a high level of security for our country,” he said.
Masondo said since their return to the borders, they have been able to work with other agencies in curbing criminality along the country’s borders.
“Our troops confiscate contraband and prevent it from being smuggled into the country. There is also a noticeable sharp decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants entering the country and we have prevented, and continue to combat, cross-border crimes,” he said.
Part of the commitment is to curb rhino poaching in the country’s national parks.
“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 [international airport] as immigration officers,” he said.
Turning to the members who marched on the Union Buildings on August 26, 2009, Masondo said they (members) were informed to return to their home units last Thursday.
“That matter is being handled by the higher headquarters and I cannot give further details,” he said.
According to the Department of Defence, members who fail to comply with the instruction could have action taken against them.
Masondo said they have gone a long way as the SA Army to ensure that members understand the recently instituted grievance procedures in the Department of Defence.
Human resources processes are under way to capacitate army commanders on the ground to deal with members’ grievances.
A grievance system will soon be rolled out to allow members to air their grievances in every military unit.
Masondo encouraged members with grievances to register them on the system, which is available at all SA Army units.
“This will also ensure that the general officers commanding different army formations have an insight into all grievances aired at the units under their command and that these are processed according to regulations,” he said.
Masondo also warned members of the media against being used “for something that could have been resolved internally”.
“We do have cases whose genuine problems may fall through the cracks, which may cause delays in resolving them and we take full responsibility for such cases.
“We have, 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 we will not allow that to happen,” said Masondo.