The State of Readiness

Quite recently me and my highly-informed friends were having lunch at a Portuguese pizzeria in Nelspruit when suddenly a very skinny army Colonel filed past in that dodgy schooled posture. I was not going to notice if one of my friends did not ask me if I think the guy can defend my country if we woke up to an invasion. I gazed at the middle-aged man and the first thing I could see through his skeletal structure was him lying expensive on a slab in some god-forsaken foreign army mortuary or with his arms raised (holding on to a bloodied white flag) surrendering. I mean my perception of soldiers is of men who fit the pedigree of those JAG and Navy Seals corporals with shaven heads and war paint. Chaps who look like Marines not the cooking or medical staff.

I then threw a cat amongst the pigeons but suggesting that I doubt if the muthafucka can successfully operate an artillery piece when it matters. "Come on I don't see this guy discharging a G5 shell successfully. He'll be thrown ten metres away by the impact." I said, knowing too damn well that a G5 is one of the most potent weapons on the modern battlefiend with a range of between 39 and 53 kilometres. The other friend, a well-travelled Congolese patriarch responded, "They say to operate that machine you now need to be at least 300 pounds, otherwise you are not going to withstand the exit of that shell"
"For sure, I mean even though some of the G5s are equipped with a target finder you still need to load those ten kilograms shells yourselves and release them. No wonder one machine is operated by at least a whole fucking platoon". Now that brought a laugh as our troopie returned from a restaurant where they sell African cuisine with a take-away - probably for some pot-bellied Luitenant-Colonel.

I stared at him walking stoically and said, "These dude looks like he weighs 165 pounds in the city where the skinny niggers die". Okay, skinny niggers don't really did in Nelspruit even though all female politicians have extra bellies. Then another friend enlightened us when he mentioned that it's not by accident but design that South Afrika is having an ageing army. "I mean the government requests these sods to stay over beyond their retirement because no one wants to join the army and infuse the ranks with new blood. It's not a lucrative career to be a uniformed soldier, especially when you are not a commissioned officer". I then reasoned that they need to go to black townships and rural schools on career Day and inform those kids about what the army can do for them. It should be like the US 'YOUR ARMY NEEDS YOU'. But first we want to see their kids in uniform at Lohatla as well.
"They used to come to our school", another friend retorted. His former school is a few kilometres from the eatery where we were devouring our Mozambican pizzas and pork ribs with zest. We then had tea then beer.

Then the Congolese friend said that the problem with SANDF ageing was that the youth looked at the army as the a last career option, an area you go to when you have failed in everything. They are more like a career in the police. There's no child who aspires to be a corporal or carve himself a career as a securocrat. They are alienated by those ex-MK old men at the top of the hierachy who want to wield a sword as if they were once soldiers even though they were just a bunch of bomb-planting idiots. He then added that the SANDF should have learnt from the Lesotho invasion of 1996 that 'our soldiers lack endurance'. They have resigned everything (including their hearts) to technology. They think that their (Rooivalks) gunships can win a war while at the end of every aerial campaign you still have to walk throught the city. They should ask the Yankees and Russians.
"That's why they are being given a hard time by boys in the DRC. Those ill-equipped armies have soliders who have a heart. You know the Chief of Staff of the Ugandan Army has occupied the same position in three countries", he said - informing us the career soldier is some sort of a mercenary who loves adventure and who started his adventure when he was just 27 years old. What is missing in SANDF?
"They don't have a heart. The Ugandan, Zimbabwean and Rwandan armies are more infrantry ready than the SANDF will ever be. South Africa only has aerial and naval capabilities but one doubts if they can fire their rifles and hit a target"

Okay, our point of departure was the skinny Colonel who did not look ready to shoot anything. Another guy said that even though the army is not wholly about shooting people as there are various careers like engineering the problem was that an army engineer is earning five times less than his counterpart in private sector. Our Congolese popped in with new info, "You know when Tanzanian soldiers went to topple Idi Amin they were given a hard time due to a topographical disadvantage until engineers stepped in and drilled a tunnel to take away the mounted advantage Amin's soldiers had. And that's how he was toppled".

But then why would a child become an engineer in the army and be expected to build a bridge in a day to move six ton tanks and be paid R8000 a month when they can build one foot bridge in six months and be paid R40 000 a month? Something for Defence Minister Sheila Sisulu to ponder about as she tries to have as many kids as possible looking at the army as lucrative as being teachers and Home Affairs clerks - where the perks are limitless. (Teachers' perks include sleeping with learners while Home Affairs is selling IDs to foreigners for pocket money)

The question still stands, 'Anyone for the army?' Our country is not safe by a long shot. If our soldiers are not skinny they are fat - there's just no middle ground with them. The fit young ones are in the Medical Corps which means they don't need to crawl and shoot people between the eyes but dress them after they have been grazed by the skinny ones and commandeered by the fat ones. We ain't safe, if six millions Zimbabweans managed to cross our border - imagine if they were all armed and here to topple the government.

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