The Military Discipline Bill has been withdrawn to allow for more public input before its bureaucratic journey through the Parliamentary legislative process continues.
The bill, which seeks to provide for effective administration of the military justice system and maintenance of discipline in the national defence force, was retracted by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in accordance with rule 334 of the National Assembly Rules to allow for further consultation on its contents according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement.
It appears the bill’s withdrawal follows only minimal input during a short period allowed for public comment. Thirteen were received. They will now go to the Department of Defence (DoD) for consideration and possible inclusion in a review of the Bill before it is resubmitted to Parliament.
Indications are, although it is not stated, there will be another period for public inputs and submissions on the draft bill.
Cyril Xaba, chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV), is reported as saying the bill’s withdrawal “allows all stakeholders an opportunity to make contributions before the bill is referred to Parliament for processing”. He stressed the importance of consultation and public participation in amending legislation.
The bill, B21 of 2019, seeks to provide for effective administration of the military justice system as well as maintain a high level of discipline in the ranks of the four services making up the national defence force. It also contains provisions regarding the establishment and regulation of military courts, the appointment of military judicial officers and court officials and provides for administrative processes.
It also makes provision for a JAG (Judge Advocate General) to head up legal services with a Provost Marshal General of the SANDF to support him or her.
The new bill, once written into the Statute Book, will repeal the Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act of 1999.
Areas of law incorporated into the new bill include the limitation of jurisdiction of military courts, their territorial jurisdiction and handling civilian offences under the still to be passed Act.
The new bill also contains a chapter devoted to military disciplinary hearings, as opposed to charges laid in accordance with the Military Disciplinary Code or transgressions of civilian law.