Charge against headscarf wearing major withdrawn


Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is “satisfied” following withdrawal of a case brought against a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) major for “wearing religious accoutrements” while in uniform.

Fatima Isaacs is a clinical forensic pathologist at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town. She was charged in June for refusing to remove her headscarf and was due to face a disciplinary hearing in August which was postponed to November. Isaacs appeared before a Court of a Military Judge at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town on 22 November. The matter was postponed to 22 January 2020 pending a decision by the Director Military Prosecutions on representations submitted by Major Isaacs’ legal team for the withdrawal of the charges, which happened.

News24 reported the issue is not yet over and lawyers for the major intends approaching the Equality Court.

“We are going to the Equality Court to challenge the policy as it still stands even though charges have been withdrawn,” Isaacs’ attorney, Amy-Leigh Payne, said after military court proceedings at the Castle of Good Hope.

“So, at a later stage, if she does not comply with the restrictions, she can be charged again,” the online news platform reported.

While in uniform Isaacs can wear a headscarf providing it fits tightly, does not cover her ears and is plain in colour.

The Department of Defence (DoD) has consulted with the Muslim Judicial Council on the issue of what it calls “religious accoutrements” and is “still in the process of shaping a policy”, head of communication Siphiwe Dlamini said in a statement.