Pretoria - A group of about 250 youths who were duped into staying at a bogus military training academy have called on the minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to “integrate” them into the SANDF.
“We want our government to help us. We have valid military training and knowledge that may end up being used in wrong ways,” said one of the recruits, Nhlanhla Korjas, 26.
The recruits, all from KwaZulu-Natal, said the training included full-scale rehearsals of military manoeuvres as practice for warfare, but excluded firearms training.
But SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said integrating the recruits into the SANDF was impossible.
“Integration was closed by an act of Parliament. SANDF recruits by advertising jobs annually in national newspapers, as well as on its website,” he said.
The young men and women told The Mercury they were recruited by Petrus “General” Ndaba in Durban at the beginning of this year.
They said they were promised jobs with the SANDF, a salary of R13000 a month and opportunities to study further after three months of training with him.
Instead, they paid between R300 and R800 for registration, a once-off payment of R1800 for training, as well as an additional R200 a month for training.
“It was easy to trust him, because he had army knowledge. He showed us video clips of him with the president, King Goodwill Zwelithini and Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as evidence that he was legit.”
Korjas said Ndaba read them a letter, purportedly from the defence force, assuring them that they would be moved to an SANDF base in Bloemfontein on June 29.
The recruits said the problems began when Ndaba told them to go and “serve the organisation” back home.
And when they asked questions about the jobs, they were kicked out of the facility Ndaba had leased for them.
One of the youngest in the group, Noluthando Shezi, 20, said she had spent three terrifying nights on the streets of Pretoria before being rescued by the Department of Social Development.
Shezi alleged that Ndaba was particularly harsh on female recruits, and she wanted justice to be served.
“He whipped our behinds with a pipe during training. It was humiliating but we persevered because we thought that was how things were done in military training.
“He took advantage because we are young, unemployed people who are desperate for jobs,” she said.
Dlamini encouraged the public to report any people who solicited money from them with the promise of integration into the SANDF to the nearest police station or army base.
Ndaba will appear in the the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court tomorrow on charges of fraud and theft.