MoD in urgent talks to halt mass exodus of 900 South African

Ministry of Defence officials are seeking "urgent talks" with their South African counterparts to prevent the potential loss of almost 900 experienced soldiers from the already overstretched British Army.

Under anti-mercenary legislation due to come into force this autumn, any South African serving without permission in even an official foreign military force would be subject to five years in prison.

Military sources say emergency measures to prevent a mass exodus are likely to include waiving current five-year residency rules to grant immediate UK citizenship to "Springboks" who choose to soldier on in British uniform.

If individuals apply for and receive special exemption from Pretoria on the grounds that the foreign army belongs to an allied nation, they would still be banned from taking part in active combat operations or of "furthering the military interests of a party to an armed conflict".

The UK has hired 880 mainly white South Africans soldiers, including a number of officers, who currently account for the equivalent of almost one and a half battalions of highly trained infantry.

Many of them enlisted in the British Army after becoming disillusioned with the increasingly dilapidated state of the the South African Defence Forces.

Pretoria's draft legislation, first flagged up more than a year ago, is aimed at curbing the estimated 20,000 South Africans hiring themselves out as soldiers of fortune in various Third World conflicts or volunteering for foreign armies.
Flagged up more than a year ago? How about over two and a half?

I first raised this to the CoC in late 2005 when it was brought to me by a concerned SA lad who was working for me, when the paper was in draft. Think it even made a thread here - search function is down with GCO playing with it but I'll post it later if I can find it.

CoC attitude then was to wait and see with no attempt made to try and influence the legislation before it went through. Head in the sand...

Cats have home to roost due to dithering and a lack of foresight.
So Ministry of Defence officials are seeking "urgent talks" with their South African counterparts??? Utter bollox: this is a known and long standing issue and from the SA perspective there is not much to talk about apart from telling us to stop it.

Military staff marching off

May 12 2008

"South Africa's military top brass have warned that the rate at which soldiers, sailors, pilots and technical personnel are being poached from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) poses a serious threat to the country.

The loss of pilots to the Australian Air Force alone recently prompted the chief of the South African Air Force Lt-Gen Carlo Gagiano to appeal to his Australian counterpart for an end to the poaching.

"I said to him: this is not on, you can't keep poaching from me. He promised me it was not him or his force, that it was other organisations, but I think I need to follow up on that conversation," he told MPs last week.

The military officers were presenting the SANDF's strategic plan for the next three years to the national council of provinces' select committee on defence and constitutional affairs.

Even musicians are in demand as a military violinist was recently recruited by a foreign fighting force. But the exodus of technicians and other specialists is far more serious.

The air force lost 218 technical specialists last year and 253 the year before. Fifty more packed their bags in the first three months of this year and April alone saw 23 technicians leave for greener pastures. Pilots are also leaving in droves.

"I have lost my Cheetah Squadron Commander to the Australian Air Force, my Hawk Squadron Commander, my senior instructor on the Hawks and just yesterday I heard that my most knowledgeable person on the Oryx helicopter is now leaving for the Australian Air Force," complained Gagiano.

He warned that the loss of air crews, particularly to the Middle and Far East, "is going to have a huge impact on the economy of the country".

All in all, the SANDF lost 910 technicians in 2007 - more than 11 percent of its entire technical staff. One official explained that this would seem like an acceptable loss of skills to some, but that the amount of money and time that went into training these members would make it impossible for the SANDF to get a return on their investment.

It has also caused a juniorisation of technical staff, leaving only a handful of experienced personnel to guide and mentor the rest who average two or three years of experience.

Chief of policy and planning in the defence secretariat Tsepe Motumi said the problem was "across the board" in the SANDF and that the organisations was suffering from "poaching on a month-to-month basis".

Chief of the SA Navy V-Adm Johannes Mudimu sketched a dismal picture of sailors, divers, submariners and navy engineers leaving for higher wages elsewhere.

"Many divers are going to Nigeria to work on the oil rigs. Others are going to the Central African Republic to work in their oil industry. We have members who have left for Australia, New Zealand and the British Royal Navy," he said.

But the haemorrhaging of skills is not only attributed to foreign recruiters.

Local aviation companies, engineering firms, transport companies and the merchant navy are also stripping the military of much needed skills.

According to Mudimu, the Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) has recruited many navy drivers and fire-fighters as the company gears up for the anticipated influx soccer enthusiasts in 2010.

Merchant mariners apparently lure young navy cadets literally under the noses of military brass. "We train them for three or four years at universities and technical colleges. They are sought-after individuals.

"You know, when I attend a parade to graduate these members, there are people in the audience with fat cheques. By the time I give him a trophy this youngster has already entered into an agreement (with another employer)," said Mudimu.

In other cases, companies or foreign governments simply buy South Africans out of their study contracts.

The navy chief conceded that losing trained personnel to the South African economy was "not so bad", but complained that many companies in the field no longer spent money on their own human resource development, they simply wait for the military to train staff.

He also emphasised that the problem was not limited to white military officers.

"Every week the navy loses people, even Africans. When we were building these new frigates in Germany, we sent a lot of blacks to Germany to train. When they came back they served the navy for one or two years and then they all left," he complained.

He said the navy lost 75 Africans last year.

The SANDF has set aside R408-million to provide incentives to those with scarce skills, but officials pointed out that, in the long run, the demand for skills was a global phenomenon and that it is hard for South Africa to compete."
Not surprising considering South Africa had the potential to collapse into anarchy Zimbabawe stylee.

I met one Zimbabwean (White) in Sydney, he was happy to have left when he did and had seen the writings on the wall before it all went to pot, he is now working for an electronics company an doing far better than in Zimbabwe,.
Biscuits_AB said:
Was he in the cadets?

On a more serious note, I wonder when the UK MoD will start to realise that vast amounts of experience is walking out through our doors to pastures new: and if so, I wonder if they'll do anything about it?


Actually, I suspect the MoD is rather pleased, given that a significant number of those leaving for foreign climes were never going to cut it in our Armed Forces anyway.


What can they do? I don't think that it's so much a financial issue as most of those in the mob are motivated by better things, but I would imagine that the effects on family life and welfare would be drivers in most cases. People want a better life for themselves and their families. Having spent time abroad they don't like the current UK image and vote with their feet. Good luck to them who make the jump.

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