Pretoria - The salaries of South Africa's soldiers will be adjusted to recognise years of service in an effort to improve their low salaries and boost morale in the military, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced on Thursday.
"We are essentially de-linking salaries from rank because of the sheer size of the defence force, a great number of our soldiers are trapped in particular ranks with no prospect improvement of their salaries," said Sisulu.
Speaking during her department's Budget Vote, she said the Defence Force Service Commission was tasked to deal with this as a matter of priority. She added that it will take eight months for the work to be completed with adjustments reflecting from the next financial year.
"This will be a much needed breakthrough that soldiers have been burdened with. It is now within our sight," she said.
Sisulu also announced that her department was looking at a housing allowance scheme tailor made to suit the organisational uniqueness of the SA National Defence Force.
"There are numerous soldiers in the SANDF who unknowingly sacrifice their financial future in addition to all the other sacrifices they make by not investing in an essential asset of home ownership.
"We intend to negotiate a pact with financial institutions whereas the employer can stand part guarantee to negotiate more favourable rates with financial institutions in a collective manner," said Sisulu.
A housing guarantee, she added, will be provided to all members applying to purchase property so that no soldier should ever retire without a house and the asset it provides.
Sisulu further announced that all children of soldiers deployed - between the ages of three months to five years - will be taken care of by the state within the existing framework of free primary school care criteria for deployed soldiers.
"A soldier gives his entire time and life to the State. The State takes on the responsibility to look after him as a unit of his family, the children of the soldiers are therefore our responsibility. When their mothers are deployed in the DRC or Sudan, we should ensure the children's welfare is not compromised," said Sisulu.
She hoped these measures would not only improve the living conditions of soldiers but also ensure that discipline is maintained within the ranks.
"We are working on all these benefits for soldiers, but I want to remind them for every benefit there is a responsibility. I want to remind them that the compact that I enter into with them on behalf of government is that they will be the leading lights of society, I demand from them a service to the state that will honour the lives of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom."