With only months before he lays down the reins as South Africa’s first military ombud, retired lieutenant general Temba Matanzima can look back on a job well done.
This goes as far as the Public Protector taking Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to task for not implementing recommendations made by Matanzima in the case of an SA Air Force officer who subsequently left the force.
As part of his final period in office Matanzima this month made a return visit to Limpopo where he called on the Army Support Base (ASB) in Polokwane. His visit tied in with a recently completed six month pilot project to establish a permanent provincial Military Ombud office in the country’s northernmost province.
He said the number of complaints from soldiers in Limpopo regarding conditions of service showed there was a need for a provincial ombud office.
Matanzima and a team from the Ombud office in Centurion first visited Limpopo last July. That visit was not confined to the provincial capital and saw the Ombud meet and interact with airmen, medics and soldiers. Among bases he called on were ASB Polokwane as well as 7 and 15 SA Infantry battalions in Phalaborwa and Vuwani. The SAAF bases in Limpopo – AFB Hoedspruit and AFB Makhado – were also on Matanzima’s schedule.
He told an interested audience at ASB Polokwane last week it was imperative for the Ombud office to “touch base with SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members so they are aware and know about the institution created for the sole purpose of assisting with their complaints as regarding service conditions”.
Where the Military Ombud cannot assist it will advise of other routes to resolve complaints. One of a number of institutions and organisations the Ombud has memoranda of understanding with is the Office of the Public Protector. That this arrangement works was ably borne out earlier this month when Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane “named and shamed” 38 institutions for failing to comply with remedial instructions issued by her office. One offender was Mapisa-Nqakula’s Department of Defence.
During his seven years as the South Africa’s first military ombud, Matanzima, in addition to resolving complaints from soldiers and the public at a success rate of over 80%, hosted conferences on the role and importance of an ombudsman in defence forces, visited South African soldiers deployed on continental peace support missions. In addition to the Public Protector MOU, Matanzima’s office went the same co-operation route with the Defence Force Service Commission.
He is due to leave office in May. At the time of publication there was no word on a possible successor.