According to the South African Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), is top heavy with generals and admirals. As the excerpted accompanying article from South African Trade Publication DefenceWeb notes, there is one general, admiral, or equivalent official for every 184 personnel in the DoD/SANDF, a ratio far greater than those of most Western militaries. Furthermore, out of the country’s more than 400 generals, only 97 are assigned to combat or intelligence services.
This imbalance has its roots in the precursor to the SANDF, the SA Defence Force (SADF),. As a result, the present day military now has numerous situations where a post previously headed by a colonel with a small staff is now headed by a general with a large staff.
The problems of a top-heavy military are compounded by SANDF’s shrinking budgets over the past years, a casualty of the country’s economic troubles. A military already constrained by funds must allocate a disproportionate amount to high-ranking officers. As a result, other priorities, such as training, facilities, maritime security, and even personnel end strength can suffer.
… rank inflation poses “a major risk” to a sustainable DoD as far as personnel strength and costs are concerned.
Source: “SANDF is top-heavy with generals – Parliamentary research report,” DefenceWeb (a South African trade publication), 3 February 2021. https://www.defenceweb.co.za/featured/sandf-is-top-heavy-with-generals-parliamentary-research-report/
A partial answer comes from respected military analyst Helmoed Heitman. He is quoted as telling a Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting rank inflation poses “a major risk” to a sustainable DoD as far as personnel strength and costs are concerned. This phenomenon dates back to the then SA Defence Force (SADF), forerunner of the SANDF in what is now democratic South Africa.
There are similar examples in the SA Air Force (SAAF) from a brigadier (before the new rank system was introduced) handling personnel matters to a brigadier general in each of the Air Office and Air Command, this despite a centralised Human Resources Division. The SA Navy (SAN) also has many senior admirals for a relatively small navy with limited vessels.
- Original source: OEW Watch | March 2021 – Foreign Military Studies Office