The concept of the Military Ombud was first contemplated in the late 1990’s as: An independent, external mechanism to deal with the complaints and grievances of members and former members of the SANDF; and A place for the public to lodge complaints about the conduct of soldiers. The White Paper on Defence (May 1996) advocated for the creation of the post of Military Ombud.
As there was no Military Ombud a Senior Legal Administration Officer in the Office of the Public Protector was responsible for dealing with complaints from SANDF members. This proved to be largely ineffective. Minutes of proceedings of the Joint Standing Committee of Defence of June 1998, show a premium was placed on the urgency of establishing such an Office.
In April 2006, a Bill entitled “South African Military Ombud” was tabled and withdrawn. A Military Ombudsman Bill was introduced to the National Assembly in Jan 2011. The Military Ombud Bill as amended and in its present form was introduced in Sept 2011.
To establish an Office of the Military Ombud a project was registered with Defence Intelligence – Project MOLAMODI. A project team was appointed under the direction of Lt Gen (Ret) T. T. Matanzima (project leader) and began work during August 2011.
To render an independent impartial and expeditious investigation and resolution process for complaints in respect of conditions of service for members and former members of the SANDF and to investigate complaints by members of the public regarding the official conduct of a member of the SANDF.
The Office was established with the promulgation of the Military Ombud Act 4 of 2012 and the swearing in of Lt Gen (Ret) T.T. Matanzima.
The role of an ombudsman is to gather facts in order to understand the merits of a complaint and thereafter to consult the relevant parties to the complaint to either settle the complaint or to make a recommendation to resolve the complaint.
The Ombudsman will therefore:
An ombudsman’s investigation is not a criminal investigation nor is it meant to be an adversarial process, it is rather an administrative inquiry to ensure due process has been observed.
The Ombud does not represent the complainant, the Department of Defence or any other government authority but rather is an independent, impartial third party that conducts an investigation in a fair and objective manner to ensure an accountable and transparent government.
Mandate of the Office is to investigate complaints lodged in writing by-
The Ombud may not investigate a complaint unless the Ombud-
The Ombud may refuse to investigate a complaint if –
a member has not first used the mechanisms available in terms of the Individual Grievance Regulations.
The complaint relates to problems inherent in the system which results in the grievance not being addressed by the SANDF.
The Military Ombud aims to give members of the SANDF and the public the confidence that it is an independent and impartial “watchdog” that holds the SANDF to account.
Institutional independence is significant to the credibility of the institution as it reflects on the impartiality of the Ombud to investigate complaints without any conflict of interest or any undue influence.
As a result, to ensure its institutional and operational independence, the Office of the Military Ombud is considering registering as a PFMA Schedule 3 Entity.
Within 30 days after the end of each financial year, the Military Ombud is obliged to submit an annual report on the activities of the Office to the Minister, which the Minister will table in Parliament within one month of receipt thereof.
The Military Ombud must also report to the Minister as and when he is required to do so.
The Military Ombud signed MOU’s with CSANDF and SecDef on 15 July 2014. An MOU with the Public Protector has also been finalised. A date is currently being finalised for the signing of this MOU.