Yes, there is a SA military ombudsman. Here's what he does
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The death of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa has brought to light the existence of a relatively unfamiliar office within the army: the military ombudsman.
Khosa was killed on Good Friday allegedly by members of the SANDF who apparently accosted him inside his yard over his drinking alcohol, ostensibly against national lockdown regulations.
His wife, Nomsa Montsha, sustained injuries in the scuffle that led to Khoza losing his life.
The family is getting legal assistance from advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi in a lawsuit against the SANDF.
The military ombud is Lieutenant-General (Ret) Vusumuzi Ramakala Masondo.
Established in 2012, the office is entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with complaints and grievances raised by current and former members of the SANDF about their conditions of service.
The office also investigates complaints from members of the public about the official conduct of members of the SANDF.
It is a separate entity from the SANDF, according to army spokesperson Colonel Louis Kirstein.
In a statement issued by Kirstein, the SANDF said: “The SA National Defence Force confirms that an incident took place in Alexandra on April 11, 2020 that led to the opening of a case at the Alexandra police station against the SANDF.
“The SANDF will co-operate with the
ongoing police investigation. The SANDF reiterates that its members are expected to act within the confines of the law during this difficult period as they enforce the lockdown regulations and help save lives in support of the police. Any action outside the law will not be condoned.”
The police and the office of the military ombud were now dealing with the matter, Kirstein said when contacted for comment.
Head of communications at the military ombud’s office Nthombikayise Mdluli-Jacha says: “The first military ombud, Lt-Gen (Ret) TT Matanzima, was appointed by the president in 2012 and he served for a period of seven years which ended in May of 2019. He was deputised by the late advocate Rendani Marivate, who was the first South African deputy military ombud, later replaced by advocate STB Damane-Mkosana, appointed by the president on November 6, 2018.”
Seeing that he polices the army the same way as Ipid does with SAPS, what sort of cases come to the military ombud?
“The office of the military ombud has received 28 complaints in total, of which 15 are from members of the public.
“Generally, the average intake of complaints per month is 30 complaints. The new complaints received during lockdown are thus within the monthly intake average.”
DA member of Parliament Kobus Marais has also reported a case to the military ombud, Mdluli-Jacha said.
His complaint was in the form of two videos “from social media on assault by SANDF members (on) civilians”.
Mdluli-Jacha said: “The military ombud was made aware of the alleged incident by the media and Honourable Member Marais, but does not foresee to be cited as a respondent in such possible legal action.”
She then added variously to each of the questions posed: “Section 9(1) of the Military Ombud Act empowers the military ombud to appoint staff to assist him in the performance of his functions. The core function of the office is within the Chief Directorate Operations with the intake and analysis as well as investigations sections respectively.”
“Section 5 of the Military Ombud Act prescribes who and how the military and deputy military ombud are appointed by the president.”
“According to the Military Ombud Act, only the South African president may appoint the military ombud.
“However, the office has signed a memorandum of understanding with the secretary for defence and chief of SANDF. The office of the military ombud is independent and impartial.
“Section 1 of the act establishes a separate office of the military ombud.
“The military ombud is empowered in terms of Section 9 with powers to appoint and manage (his) own human resources. Expenditure in connection with the administration of the office must be funded from monies appropriated by Parliament for that purpose, as part of the budget vote of the department, Section 10(1).
“The military ombud is required to account for all monies received or paid by the office and cause the required accounting and other records to be kept. Section 11 further requires the MO to report annually to the minister of defence and military veterans on its activities.
“The concept of the military ombud was first contemplated in the late 1990s as an independent, external mechanism to deal with the complaints and grievances of members and former members of the SANDF, and a place for the public to lodge complaints about the official conduct of soldiers.
“The role of the ombud is to gather facts in order to understand the merits of a complaint and thereafter to consult the relevant parties to the complaint, to either settle the complaint or to make a recommendation to resolve the complaint.”
The ombud’s office can be contacted at [email protected] or via WhatsApp at 0126763800, through their website ( www.milombud.org) and through social media platforms Facebook, Twitter @Mil_OmbudSA, LinkedIn: South African Military Ombud and Instagram: South African Military Ombud.