ATT: ALL NEWS EDITORS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: 06 June 2021
The Office of the Military Ombud has finalised most of the cases received from members of the public against soldiers
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 SANDF on duty during the financial year 2020/21.
The Office is mandated in terms of section 4(1) of the Military Ombud Act 4 of 2012 to investigate complaints lodged in writing by current and former members of the SANDF on their conditions of service and members of the public against the official conduct of a soldier on duty.
The Office has finalized 70% 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 ranged 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, Lt Gen (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,” said Masondo.
Masondo said they have dismissed few complaints due to lack of evidence. “Members of the public must provide all necessary details to assist with the investigations,” said Masondo.
He said those who lodge complaints should try to get the name of the soldier concerned from their name badge, car registrations, 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 in one particular afternoon members of the SAPS and SANDF visited the 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 which of rands which they loaded in 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 was confirmed by the video footage. The investigation is finalized with the preliminary report issued to the interested parties. The complaint is upheld by the Office.
The Office investigates complaints fairly and expeditiously without fear, favour or prejudice and observes their fundamental human rights.
During investigations, the Office is mandated by Section 8(5) of the Act to preserve confidentiality in respect of any information acquired from the complainant.