National service mooted
Cape Town - The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is considering introducing national service for young South Africans, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Tuesday.
Briefing the media at Parliament ahead of her budget debate in the National Assembly, she emphasised it would be voluntary, and not compulsory as in the apartheid era.
"It will not be conscripted, so we're not going conscription, but we want to offer the country what we believe the defence force is capable of doing."
"We're very aware of the emotive issue of national service, that is why we are underlining that it is not a conscription."
"But if you look at the defence force of any country, then you'll understand. Here is enormous capacity of building a disciplined people, of building a purposeful people, of providing skills that are free, that are not determined by the social class that you come from and we intend to utilise that," she said.
"If you look at the footage on television on any good day and you're watching a service delivery protest, you don't see elderly ladies or middle-aged people there. You see a very angry youth with a great deal of energy."
"I don't think our country, with the potential that it has and the history we've had, can afford to have an angry youth on our streets."
"The unemployed with no hope, no prospects that their lives will get any better; and if we can harness this energy and turn it for good, like all other countries use their defence force for, I think that we will benefit," Sisulu said.
The department was looking at how national service could become a "seamless part" of the education system between basic education, tertiary education and vocational training.
"We would like to have a period in which we take your children and give them a bit of discipline."
"The biggest problem we have in this country is the discipline we have in our youth."
"If your children are well-disciplined, congratulations. But this seems to be a national phenomenon and we've got to do something about it," she said.
"We are a very young country; we're leaving this country that we've worked so hard for in the hands of these people, and there's absolutely no harm in giving them the responsibility, the orientation, and the patriotism that is required to take this country that has achieved so much, forward."
"It will not be compulsory, but we would like to ensure that everybody takes advantage of this particular infrastructure."
"We have the infrastructure to build on what it is that we are promising."
It would take time, because funds would be required and some of the infrastructure would have to be revitalised.
Because the proposal would require funding and the SANDF restructuring to cater for national service, legislative changes would be necessary to give it the force of a mandate.
Asked about the time-frame, Sisulu said it depended on how society at large felt about the idea.
If the response was positive, the process would be faster, but the idea was to seek consensus on the matter.
It was hoped that the necessary legislative changes would be passed within a year, but it would take time to prepare the infrastructure required, so it would take about two years at the outer limit, she said.