Ombud investigation into Khosa death raises further questions

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The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans is reported as claiming she was “misled” about the military board of inquiry (BOI) into the death of Collins Khosa prompting one critic to point out she’s no longer in charge of the national defence force.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said, according to independent South African TV news channel ENCA, she was misled as regards the “initial inquiry” into the death of the Alexandra resident on Good Friday when the country was in lockdown level five at commencement of the national state of disaster. The BOI was led by Brigadier General Viscount Ngcobo, whose unit affiliation has not been made public. The BOI exonerated soldiers allegedly involved in the assault and subsequent death of Khosa.

This week’s Military Ombud finding that soldiers acted improperly, irregularly and contravened the national defence force’s code of conduct was “a welcome one” according to Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.

“The so-called SA National Defence Force (SANDF) investigation was shambolic from the start with the Minister flip-flopping about the status of the investigation’s report leading to confusion and a retraction on her part. The soldiers in question were not disciplined before the court ordered them and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers implicated, suspended.

“This led to questions as to whether the Minister misled Parliament and the public; whether she knew she signed an affidavit submitted to court; and whether she was undermined by the military leadership? These questions are yet to be answered.

“The Ombud findings are the first real steps to holding those in law enforcement who perpetrated brutality during the COVID-19 lockdown accountable. Many South Africans suffered at the hands of those whose mandate is serve and protect citizens. South Africans were brutalised and humiliated without impunity and until now, had no hope of justice.”

Another who weighed in on the Minister and her claim of being “misled” is African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier.

“Even if Minister Mapisa-Nqakula ‘was’ misled, it’s not an excuse. South Africa, like most liberal democracies, operates under the principle of Ministerial Responsibility which holds ministers ultimately accountable for the actions of their departments.

“Whether she knew the truth or not is irrelevant, because she had a duty to find out and was in charge of setting and enforcing the policies that allowed this to happen. She also has the power to take action against her department, which she has not used.

“The way the SANDF and the Defence Minister handled the Khosa killing is shocking in its arrogance and disgusting in its indifference. The incident itself was bad enough and top brass must bear some blame for it, but the aftermath was rubbing salt in the wound,” Olivier said.

Marais will take Mapisa-Nqakula’s actions and public utterances further. He told defenceWeb “South Africans don’t need a Minister who sweeps injustice under the carpet. We need a Minister of Defence who defends her people and is not led by the nose. If Minister Mapisa-Nqakula cannot fulfil these basic requirements, maybe it is time for someone more capable to take her place.”

There was, at the time of publication, no response to the Ombud findings on Khosa’s death from other political parties and neither the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) nor the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) released statements. The JSCD is scheduled to be briefed by “Parliamentary legal advisors on the implications of the Khosa judgement on Parliament and the Defence Committees” next Wednesday (26 August).