Over three-quarters of incidents reported to the Office of the Military Ombud, headed by retired general Vusi Masondo, in the 2020/21 financial year have been finalised.
Fifty-six complaints were lodged with the Ombud’s Centurion office during the previous financial year with a statement indicating 70% were brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
The cases were lodged during the national state of disaster declared to combat the spread of coronavirus and are the single highest annual number of complaints received by Masondo and his staff in nine years of the Ombud’s existence to date.
Complaints included allegations of assault, damage to property, use of excessive force and general heavy-handedness by soldiers when enforcing lockdown regulations.
Among cases dealt with by the Ombud was one reported by a tavern owner who alleged police and soldiers visited his premises, stole and drank alcohol, threw empty cans at him and assaulted him. They allegedly stole R25 000 in cash and alcohol valued at “thousands of Rand”. The tavern owner could not obtain the soldiers’ names. The incident was captured on video and the soldiers’ identity confirmed by video footage. The investigation is finalised. The statement notes the tavern complaint is upheld by the Ombud Office.
The statement makes no mention of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa, apparently killed by soldiers over last year’s Easter weekend when lockdown levels were at their strictest. An SA Army board of inquiry cleared soldiers of involvement and charges of murder are reportedly being investigated by police.