The 35 medics administratively discharged from the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) after being absent without official leave (AWOL) from a Cuban training facility were not attending classes as required.
In the wake of a terse two paragraph statement from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) giving no substantial information, defenceWeb was informed “the issue pertaining to AWOL by the students was discovered and dealt with timeously as from 11 February the students refused to attend classes”.
A second statement, attributed to SANDF corporate communication director Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, was given to this publication after input was provided by SAMHS and the Human Resources Directorate of the national defence force.
It reads, in part: “The SAMHS Command Structure, after numerous interventions, finally decided to administratively discharge students studying medicine in the Republic of Cuba. All 35 students who were administratively discharged are back home and accounted for”.
“As per internal Human Resource Policy, the SANDF is compelled to procure flight tickets for the students withdrawn from a course in Cuba.
“The Department of Defence (DOD) has Standard Operating Procedures (HRSC/DPS/7/2002 dated 10 May 2002) regulating administrative discharge of DOD personnel due to AWOL.”
In addition to being “administratively discharged” for an AWOL offence, soldiers and other serving national defence force personnel, can face this form of discharge for three other reasons.
The first is in terms of findings following a Court of Military Appeal Review, the second is “in the event of death of an officer, other ranks and public service personnel (in the DoD)” and the third is for medical reasons.
The 35 absent without leavers who are no longer in uniform brings the number of SAMHS students “studying towards medicine qualifications that take up to seven years to complete on average” in Cuba down to 41. All 76 reported for duty, to use another military term, on the Caribbean island last year.
As of late 2018, there were 202 SANDF members undergoing professional training in Cuba, including medical training. Other courses included air traffic control, armament and radio technician and tank transporter, amongst others.