DURBAN - The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) conceded that the rations meant for a military component deployed in the South African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique was rotten as a result of a mobile pantry storage facility used in the mission area which broke down from October 20 to 24.
In a statement issued by the SANDF on Thursday after the Daily News broke the story about rotten food rations being fed to soldiers who had since suffered from diarrhoea after consuming the food and drinking dirty water, the department acknowledged the food rations were spoiled.
However, the military denied the food was consumed by the soldiers on the ground, who disclosed the information to the Daily News.
“Consequently, rations that were stored were out of a required refrigeration temperature for a period of four (4) days, which got spoilt in the interim, as such the designated health expert based at Macomia, Mozambique, declared these rations unfit for human consumption.
“In the wake of such an unfortunate incident, the spoiled rations were disposed of immediately, and two deep freezer fridges were purchased and sent to Macomia. The logistic personnel in the mission were engaged to allow them to submit new demands to replace bad rations.
“The SANDF further assisted the Component Commander in the mission area to procure fresh fruit and vegetables at the local market in accordance with standard procurement protocols,” read the SANDF statement.
It said that during the time when a mobile pantry storage facility had ceased to function, members of the SANDF on the ground were given dry rations in order to supplement the spoiled rations.
Responding to the SANDF statement, the South African Defence Union said it was not unusual for cold storage facilities to break down.
“As with all mechanical equipment, breaking down is not unusual in any military. Fresh ration storage replacement speed (as with any other military equipment replacement is key). Substituting spoiled fresh rations with dry rations as and when needed is standard practice in any military,” said union secretary advocate JG Greef.
The SANDF deployed in the neighbouring nation are part of the SADC regional standby force to help Mozambique defeat its Islamist insurgency in the northern Cabo Delgado province.
Speaking to the Daily News, they alleged they had forwarded the complaint, hoping that someone from the top structure of the SANDF would look into the matter and try to resolve these issues but no help came.
“We ended up eating rotten meat and vegetables, and almost every soldier was getting diarrhoea. When we raised the issue, the officials said we are not cleaning our eating utensils. A lot of rotten meat had to be burned because the facility is not suitable to be used as food storage.”
The letter added that it was practically impossible to remain hygienic when they were only offered three litres of water each a day.
To comment on this story send a WhatsApp message to our BackChat column on 071 485 7995.