Durban - Parliament has said that it will exercise its right to hold executive and departmental officials to account for their actions, after members of the SANDF deployed in Mozambique were fed rotten food.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise will be appearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on Thursday, to respond to a report by the Military Ombudsman that found there was indeed negligence.
The report by the Military Ombudsman followed a story published in the Daily News detailing how the soldiers were unable to perform their duty after being struck with diarrhoea after consuming rotten food and dirty water.
“The committee was concerned about the reports that soldiers deployed to Mozambique were fed rotten food. It sought an explanation from the chief of joint operations, Lieutenant Lucky Sangweni.
“His position was that no soldier was fed rotten food. The committee’s view was that the allegations were too serious to not dig deeply into them. It then asked the minister to order the Military Ombud to conduct an investigation into the allegations, and we are grateful that the minister obliged,” said JSCD chairperson Cyril Xaba.
The findings of a team led by retired Lieutenant-General Vusi Masondo recommended that the relevant steps should be taken to address the findings of negligence in the report.
The DA Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Kobus Marais, has blamed the situation on the government, for deploying soldiers under pressure and with limited resources.
“While they authorised an expenditure amount, this was never added additionally to the approved defence budget. With no provision for this deployment and an already ‘poverty stricken’ defence budget, this implied ‘stealing from Peter to pay Paul,’” Marais said.
“The original actual deployment was about 300 Special Forces men with the expectation to go into enemy territory and gather reliable information in order to prepare for a bigger deployment of mainly South African infantry soldiers. This bigger deployment will now only take place after a year.
“Due to our very poor air platform availability, regular food replenishments could not be supplied, leading to a decline of our defence capabilities due to a lack of both political will and management to reprioritise the defence force’s focus and expenditure to align with our threats … Something had to give, which unfortunately compromised our soldiers when they were supposed to receive the best possible support from the government and the SANDF.”
Contacted for comment, the communications officer for the defence force, Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Makopo, said his team would respond, but had not done so by the time of publication.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobhozi had previously told the paper that budget cuts had a negative impact on soldiers’ ability to carry out their mandate.
Attempts to solicit a response from the national secretary of the SANDF Union, advocate Pikkie Greeff, failed as he did not respond to questions.