Withdrawal of charges against five of 12 suspects arrested in connection with the theft of weapons from the SA Army’s Tek Base comes as no surprise to Kobus Marais, shadow defence and military veterans minister.
“I know the theft took place over an 80 day period prior to the loss being reported (in December),” he told defenceWeb following a military court decision to drop charges against five suspects.
“From the outset it was naïve to apprehend only personnel on duty the day the missing weapons were discovered as it was clear to me, at least, more people must have been involved.”
Neither the Department of Defence (DoD) in the form of its head of communications, nor SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Corporate Communications Directorate responded to last week’s withdrawal of charges by way of a statement. This is in contrast with the discovery of the theft, first made public by Marais and followed by two DoD statements, one acknowledging a “break-in” at the Centurion military base, adding suspects were being questioned. In the second Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was quoted as saying the arrested suspects were “unpatriotic” and “self-serving thugs”.
Marais said to date he had no response when posing questions to Mapisa-Nqakula.
“She, so far, seems reluctant to answer questions. During a recent oral question session in Parliament I asked a question and had a specific follow-up one which went unanswered due to time constraints,” he said adding he was “hopeful” the Minister will report back to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, “so we can get to the bottom of this theft”.
While not wanting to be drawn on legal issues around the dropping of charges, Marais said there were “discipline and commitment challenges influencing the behaviour of at least some SANDF staff”.
“There should be adequate and adhered to checks and balances to ensure no person with ulterior motives gets away with theft of this nature. To me it is symptomatic of larger challenges in the national defence force that must be addressed sooner rather than later if the force aspires to the Constitutional mandate set for it,” he said.