Concerns about bad rations for South African soldiers in Mozambique were first raised in Parliament last November with a Military Ombud investigative team on site two months later reporting negligence with food stored in broken freezers at an operational base.
The Ombud investigation report was tasked with looking into allegations relating to rotten or spoiled food and/or water served to SANDF (SA National Defence Force) soldiers deployed in Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM). It was tabled this week at a Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting by Ombud investigations director Mr V Jonas.
Ombud office investigators relied on soldiers in the mission area and also interviewed “witnesses not present in the mission area” between 20 and 24 October last year. This is when some soldiers apparently presented symptoms of illness, including diarrhoea, after eating “rotten or spoiled food” and drinking water not fit for human consumption at forward operating base (FOB) Macomia.
There was rotten or spoiled food due to a malfunctioning mobile pantry at the base, with disposal apparently ordered but not necessarily done to all fresh produce and meat. Repairs were ordered and done but the freezers remained unserviceable with replacements requested to ensure no further spoiling. The mal- or non-functioning freezers were allegedly the cause of diarrhoea among some soldiers. According to the Ombud report there was “a causal link” between “rotten meat consumed by soldiers” and diarrhoea reported on 25 October.
Investigators established, through interviews, soldiers were all supplied with bottled water. A pair of freezers were unserviceable and after repairs still not good enough to use. They were replaced. Fresh produce meant for soldiers was, in some instances, stored under roofs on cool concrete floors.
The Ombud investigation’s major finding is spoiled or rotten food was “not intentionally” served to soldiers and recommends “relevant steps” be taken to address and prevent negligence with rations in future. Another recommendation is compliance with standard operating procedure (SOE) as regards timely disposal of “contaminated food in the mission area”.