Monday, 07 June 2021
Pretoria: The Office of the Military Ombud says it has finalised 70 percent of the cases received from members of the public against soldiers on duty during the 2020/21 financial year.
The South African Military Ombud Office briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on cases lodged by the members of the public regarding the official conduct of the members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The office has finalised 70 percent of the 56 complaints lodged by members of the public regarding the conduct of the SANDF members deployed to enforce lockdown regulations due to COVID-19.
This is the highest number of cases brought by the public against soldiers in a single year since the establishment of the Military Ombud Office in 2012.
The complaints range from allegations of assault, damage to property, use of excessive force and general heavy-handedness by soldiers when enforcing the lockdown regulations.
The South African Military Ombud, Lieutenant General (Ret) Vusumuzi Masondo informed the Portfolio Committee that some of the challenges encountered by his office during the investigations of the complaints were the travel restrictions and social distancing protocols.
“We were only able to commence with investigations in the third quarter of the financial year. The turnaround times for investigations was therefore negatively impacted,” Masondo said.
Masondo said they have dismissed few complaints due to lack of evidence.
“Members of the public must provide all the necessary details to assist with the investigations,” Masondo said.
Those who lodge complaints should try to get the name of the soldier concerned from their name badge, car registration and provide a recording of the incident if available to assist with the investigations.
Amongst the cases dealt with by the Office was a matter reported by a tavern owner who alleged that on one particular afternoon, members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and SANDF visited his premises, stole and drank his alcohol, threw empty cans at him and thereafter assaulted him.
They allegedly stole cash amounting to R25 000 from a cash register and alcohol worth thousands of rands which they loaded in their police vans.
He was unable to get the names of the soldiers, however, the incident was captured on video and the identity of the soldiers were confirmed by the video footage.
The investigation is finalised with the preliminary report issued to the interested parties. The complainant’s name or identity is upheld by the Office.