Executive Summary

February 2005


The Citizen’s Role in Defence in a Democracy

The reorganization of the Armed Services of South Africa which commenced in 1994 has resulted in several fundamental changes to the Defence policy of the Republic. The racially-based policy of conscription, which had ensured a continual supply of white male manpower into the ranks of the (then) South African Defence Force, was discontinued. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) became an all-volunteer organization committed to representivity, transformation and equal opportunity.

In addition to the primary task of the military defence of the Republic, the SANDF has been given other equally important tasks : participation in peace support operations and humanitarian activities (collectively referred to as "Operations Other Than War") under the auspices of the United Nations and the African Union have been added.

The Defence Review and the White Paper on Defence have mandated that the SANDF be restructured to consist of " …a relatively small Regular (or full-time) Force and a sufficiently large Reserve (or part-time) Force", this structure being the most efficient and cost-effective means of ensuring the Republic’s defence capability. The role of the Reserve Force is to function, according to need, as the "Expansion Capability" of the SANDF. In particular, this function includes providing graduate skills and expertise in the professions, sciences, administrative and business fields which may not readily be available in the Regular Force.



Being a highly-contentious, politicized and coercive policy, conscription resulted in widespread antipathy to the Armed Forces. Consequently, there presently exists no established culture of voluntary military service in the Republic. An unfortunate oversight at the commencement of reorganization in 1994 was the lack of an exit strategy from conscription. No effective replacement system was developed for marketing and recruiting into the Reserve Force : this omission has led, in the decade since, to a significant degradation of the strength and the "Expansion Capability" of the Reserve.

The core of the problem is an ageing leadership cadre coupled with an acute and worsening shortage of young, fit junior Reserve officers to provide leadership within the Reserve, both at present and into the future as senior officers.



Against this background, the SANDF established the aptly-named Project PHOENIX to formulate ways and means to "revive and rejuvenate" the Reserve of the SANDF. PHOENIX has produced several initiatives : one of these has been the development of the University Reserve Training Unit (URTU).

Based upon the models of highly successful, well-established programmes in other countries, the URTU offers eligible volunteer undergraduates a structured, challenging and enjoyable programme of part-time military, leadership and personal development training leading towards commissioning as junior officers in the SANDF Reserve. The 3 year programme is structured to avoid any possible conflict with the students’ academic commitments : thus the schedule takes account of the academic timetable and training takes place after hours - at weekends, in the evenings and during vacations. The URTU programme is presented off-campus at the regional URTU military establishment.




Expressed in terms of an "end state", the URTU aims to assist in producing students who will graduate with the best degrees of which they are capable and who will be leaders in their chosen fields, both within the SANDF and in civilian life. These graduates will, because of their URTU experience, likely later hold the Armed Services in high regard from an informed perspective. This aim is fulfilled within the broader purpose of the URTU – the promotion and fostering amongst the young people of South Africa of the responsibilities of citizenship and of the ethos of voluntary service to the nation. The URTU’s purpose lies in meeting the growing need for junior leadership in the SANDF Reserve - achieved by developing the leadership potential of selected undergraduates – and so to provide the "Expansion Capability" of skills and expertise in the sciences, administration, business and legal fields referred to above.


The URTU curriculum is spread over a 3 year cycle and consists of instruction in leadership skills, personal development and specific military training. Eligible volunteers are students in the third or later year of study and are required to complete a comprehensive selection process which determines academic, psychological and physical suitability for training .

Successful selectees enlist in the rank of URTU Officer Cadet in Reserve Service Category B, which requires 28 to 30 days of service per year, paid at a daily salary between R 126.00 and R 141.00 according to year of service. Successful completion of Years 1 and 2 leads to commissioning as a Second Lieutenant at the commencement of Year 3. An additional annual service bonus of R 600.00 is paid at year-end. Out-of-pocket subsistence and travel (S&T) costs are reimbursed to Officer Cadets.

Military training consists of the standard SANDF Junior Infantry Officers core curriculum, while the Leadership training component is accredited at NQF 5 and is thus a qualification portable to the civilian sector. The Service – specific training is presented in Year 3 : for example, for medical students this includes the BATLS and BARTS Course , the military version of the well-known civilian Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Course. For law students, the Law of Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law will form part of specialist training. *

A student’s participation in the URTU programme is entirely voluntary. Thus a student may resign from the programme at any time without sanction. There is no call-up obligation for Year 1 and 2 Officer Cadets.


The establishment of an URTU contingent at a University is effected by the formation of an oversight Military Education Committee (MEC), constituted jointly of members of the University academic staff (appointed from the Senate) and the SANDF Reserve Officers attached to the URTU. In keeping with the Constitutional principle of civil control of the military, the MEC is chaired by a civilian senior academic. The MEC exercises oversight of all activities of the URTU contingent, including the continued presence of the URTU , the progress of the individual Officer Cadets and also advises on programme structure and curriculum content.



It is proposed to launch the URTU in 2005 by way of a pilot phase at the Faculties of Health Sciences at the Universities situated in Gauteng. This pilot will be presented jointly by the SA Military Health Service and the SA Army. Should the pilot phase – aimed at recruiting third and fourth year medical students for the SA Military Health Service Reserve - prove successful, the URTU will be expanded to other faculties and departments at all other institutions of tertiary education in South Africa with the aim of recruiting for all the Services and Divisions of the SANDF in a roll-out process commencing in 2006.


* Note : The comprehensive details of the URTU curriculum and programme are laid out in the document "Outline, Content and Syllabus for the SA National Defence Force University Reserve Training Unit " which accompanies this Executive Summary.

Author : Col Gareth Richard Hide , Senior Staff Officer : Directorate Military Health Reserve Force, Office of the Surgeon General.