April 1 has been set down as the starting date for the SA Army’s official commitment to rural development in North West. Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, outgoing Army Chief, has approved a funded plan for the medium term for the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) rural development initiative which goes back to Lindiwe Sisulu’s term as Defence and Military Veterans Minister.
Last year’s the initiative was revived with current Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula recommitting her soldiers to boosting rural development, in particularly the poorer parts of the country.
SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke has set five guidelines for the pilot project.
These include that its contribution not be restricted to the agricultural sector but include the industrial and service sectors as well as human resource development with emphasis on the youth, military veterans and women. The developmental contribution should be linked to infrastructure development and that a project director is appointed with “a clear mandate to enrich the concept as presented”.
The landward force of the SANDF will be the lead service and it will also, in time, be responsible for the roll-out of the project in other provinces.
Speaking at last year’s signing ceremony in Mafikeng the Minister said it was an indicator of the South African military’s “inherent potential to support development through peacetime activities”.
The Mafikeng meeting was preceded by a commitment to involve the military in rural development three years earlier. That would have seen the provision of certain goods and services to military bases and units in the Potchefstroom area of North West by local communities. Fresh vegetables for use in military kitchens and assistance in skilling locals as mechanics to assist with maintenance of military vehicles, including cars and trucks were given as examples at the time. The initiative was put on hold because of national and provincial elections held in 2014 but was revived last year and will now kick off as a funded project in April.
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