Oudtshoorn, Western Cape - A board of inquiry has been established to investigate a punitive training session at the Army Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, the SANDF said on Tuesday.
“Action will be taken against anyone who might have acted out of the rule which governs the type of punishment befitting the violation, because the punishment should be equal to the violation committed,” said SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Xolani Mabanga.
Several army recruits reportedly needed medical treatment after the training session.
According to Beeld, the training session, which took place on Thursday night and Friday morning, was apparently halted at the request of medical officers at the base because they feared the recruits would not survive.
All the recruits' phones were confiscated to ensure no photographs or video footage was distributed, an angry mother told the newspaper.
“The children live in a state of extreme anxiety,” she said.
The punitive session was arranged after the recruits left the base on Thursday to visit a pub.
Mabanga confirmed this, but could not confirm the date.
“We are aware of five people that sneaked out of the camp and went to drink in a local pub. Then they were brought back. They were dressed in their military training gear and yes, they were punished in a way that fitted the type of violation.”
He said the inquiry would determine whether anyone had acted unfairly. He said he had not received the inquiry's results.
South African National Defence Union spokesperson Pikkie Greeff said the recruits were given physical training (PT) as punishment, which he said was illegal.
Mabanga disputed this and said Greeff was not a member of the SANDF.
“PT can be used as a corrective measure. However, when it is done excessively, whether in training or as punishment, it is not allowed.”
Greeff said he was told there were 11 recruits involved in the session and what happened to them went far beyond PT.
“They were forced to strip naked in the middle of the night and then they were forced to carry around poles, and if somebody dropped these poles they were beaten with broomsticks,” he said.
“The one (man) was so severely beaten he is in ICU in the MediClinic in Oudtshoorn.”
He said the other 10 recruits were still in the base's sick bay on Saturday.
Greeff said his shopstewards were refused entry to the sick bay and the union would contact the families of the recruits and assist them in approaching the South African Human Rights Commission.
He said this was not the first questionable incident at the camp.
In August, a woman recruit committed suicide at the base. At the time Sandu claimed the suicide note made reference to humiliation by base management.
On Tuesday, Greeff said: “It can't go on like this... It’s not a military camp anymore, it's a prison camp.”
When asked about the hospitalisation of recruits after the training session, Mbanga said he had not heard of anything.
“Not to my knowledge,” he said.
Johanna Mokoena, a manager at the Klein Karoo MediClinic in Oudtshoorn, did not have any record of a member of the army in the facility. - Sapa