Johannesburg - Military officers who swore at Oudtshoorn police and threatened to bulldoze their police station are finally facing military and civilian prosecutions.
In November, a general and two colonels made their first appearance before a court-martial, with charges that could mean up to 10 years in jail.
And last week, two of them failed to turn up to face charges in a civilian court. They face arrest if they fail to do so again.
The cases are against Brigadier-General Xolani Mankayi, Colonel Nkhabu Nthejane and Lieutenant-Colonel Siphiwo Mphahlwa. Mankayi is chief of staff at Infantry Headquarters, Nthejane is commander of the Infantry School in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, and Mphahlwa is at Defence Works Formation.
It is understood that none have been suspended.
The charges arise from an incident in May last year when the SAPS arrested SANDF members at an unlicensed shebeen in Bongolethu, Oudtshoorn.
They were apparently celebrating after a passing-out parade at the Oudtshoorn base that was aimed at showing off their knowledge of military discipline.
The three officers are accused of gathering two platoons in armoured vehicles and turning up at the police station, swearing at and threatening policemen, and then successfully demanding the release of their colleagues.
The three made their first appearance before a military court run by a senior military judge on November 17, and the case was postponed for further investigation by the military police.
The indictments in the court-martial outline the case.
The most serious charges are under the Intimidation Act and carry sentences of up to 10 years and/or a R40 000 fine.
There are also charges under the Defence Act, which carry sentences of up to five years.
All three officers are accused of being drunk.
Mankayi allegedly ordered Nthejane and others to “get two platoons ready with ammunition and armed vehicles with the intention to take over the police station”, to get the arrested troops released without going through the police-booking process.
Nthejane allegedly complied.
At the police station, the three officers allegedly threatened to “take over” the station if the soldiers were not released.
Nthejane and Mphahlwa allegedly threatened that the platoons would “bulldoze the wall of the police station with Mambas and would take over the police station”, and Nthejane allegedly threatened to kill a police captain.
Nthejane and Mphahlwa also face racism charges, which carry sentences of up to five years under the Defence Act.
“The days of f***ing white people is over,” Nthejane allegedly told police.
“You are f***ed up, it does not matter the shape of your nose or colour of your skin, you are f***ed up… You whites still think you own this country… The Western Cape does not belong to you,” Mphahlwa allegedly told police officers.
He allegedly slammed a video recorder from a police sergeant’s hands to stop him recording the scene.
The military prosecutions took several months to get under way, and it is believed this was finally ordered by Chief of the SANDF General Solly Shoke, who was reportedly furious about the incident.
Last month, Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament, following a question from Freedom Front Plus MP Petrus Groenewald, that an officer was facing a court-martial and that police arrested eight SANDF members for drinking at the shebeen: a lieutenant-colonel, a captain, a corporal, three privates and two civilian members.
“Two soldiers admitted guilt and each paid a fine of R200. The other six soldiers appeared before the Oudtshoorn Magistrate’s Court and their case was withdrawn due to the fact that their summonses were incorrect,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
She did not mention further charges, but on Friday, the SAPS confirmed another case against two unnamed officers. They are understood to be Mankayi and Nthejane.
“Two men had been charged with intimidation, alternatively defeating the end of justice,” said Captain Bernadine Steyn.
“They were scheduled to appear in the Oudtshoorn Magistrate’s Court on January 20. They were, however, not present in court and were represented by their legal representative. A warrant of arrest was issued, but is kept in abeyance until their next appearance, which is on February 20.”
On Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority seemed unaware of the intimidation case against the officers, confirming only the admission of guilt fines and problematic summonses.
The SANDF had not responded to questions since Friday.