Publication: Sunday Argus Issued: Date: 2002-07-14 Reporter: Angela Quintal and Sapa Editor:

Deploy Our Demotivated Army Elsewhere


Publication  Sunday Argus
Date 2002-07-14
Reporter Angela Quintal and Sapa
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If anything should have panned out well for the new South Africa after 1994 it was the creation of its integrated army.

The material the country had to work with was arguably the best in the world - the mean but highly efficient apartheid fighting machine and the guerrilla-trained military wings of the liberation movements.

It was an exciting prospect in military terms : each element contributing its particular skills and expertise, creating a force as proficient in conventional warfare as it was in the bush. Add to this the arms and equipment acquired with the astronomical defence budgets of the "total onslaught" era and there was potential for a military machine to be reckoned with, capable of striking fear into would-be aggressors from Beit Bridge to Cairo and beyond.

But it was not to be. A Defence Department report to its parliamentary portfolio committee has painted a shocking picture of an army in disarray; of bored, demoralised, unfit, and overweight soldiers with nothing to do; of training grinding to a halt and equipment in a deplorable state.

The refrain "lack of funds" is as ubiquitous as the inefficiencies it is supposed to explain away but this time few will buy the excuse.

Here we have thousands of people being paid salaries who probably do not enjoy sitting on their bums all day watching their boeps grow. While the wider implications of the report are being addressed, why not redeploy them in a way that will rebuild morale and cost almost nothing?

For instance, they could be "lent out" to help police our suburbs, staff our hospitals and clinics, build houses for the poor ... the possibilities are endless. All it needs to find one that works is the will and a little creative thinking.

With acknowledgement to Sunday Argus.