The first three weeks of lockdown in South Africa have seen four complaints regarding alleged assault by soldiers lodged with the Office of the Military Ombud.
In the same time a member of the public reported “concerns” about the number of videos on social media apparently showing undisciplined and conduct unbecoming both soldiers and police.
The first complaint brought to the Centurion offices of retired General Vusi Masondo was from Democratic Alliance (MP) Kobus Marais, who is the party’s shadow defence and military veterans minister. That was barely 24 hours into the lockdown and was in the form of two social media videos.
In response Masondo’s office said: “The complaint filed was registered and he was provided with a case reference number. The evidence provided indicates prima facie that the incident falls within the jurisdiction of the Military Ombud to investigate. On further assessment it is clear the evidence lacks crucial information, such as particulars of the alleged perpetrators as well as information of the alleged victims. The Office will communicate with Mr Marais regarding the omitted detail required for further investigation”.
Other soldier-related complaints taken to the Ombud are the by now infamous incident in Alexandra, Johannesburg, where a resident was allegedly murdered by soldiers on lockdown patrol; alleged assault by soldiers on a Kraaifontein, Cape Town resident and “assault by SANDF members during the night at Blood River near Polokwane”.
A spokesman for the Ombud said the lockdown-related complaints and others received in the last three week were all being assessed and communication with the complainants was being made “as far as possible”. The other complaints relate to soldiers allegedly being victimised or resigning, with one about a specific grievance.
According to the Ombud the average turnaround time for an investigation to be finalised is 247 days.
Complaint forms are available on the Military Ombud website (www.milombud.org). Where people do not have access to forms, an email detailing the complaint and relevant evidence should be sent to [email protected]. Complainants will need to complete complaint forms after the current lockdown ends, Masondo’s office advised.