A spokesman for the national defence force points out there is only one culture – a military one – in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and all members are expected to “adhere to it”.
The comment by Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, Director: Defence Corporate Communication, follows a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) clinical forensic pathologist apparently being charged for wearing a headscarf associated with her religion while in uniform. She reportedly appeared in a military court earlier this week and will face a disciplinary hearing in August.
Certain media have it the female major has not previously been either spoken to or warned about her headscarf which, according to her lawyer, does not obstruct any military insignia or rank. The lawyer maintains the matter will go to court if satisfaction is not obtained at the disciplinary hearing. This is because the attempt to stop her wearing the headscarf is discriminatory and smacks of Islamophobia.
An statement attributed to Mgobozi states “commentary in various media platforms with regard to members’ religious rights and affiliations is noted”. It also notes religious affiliation is “recognised without fear of contradiction by the Chaplain General”.
As a military organisation the SANDF is “governed by prescripts and dress codes which regulate and dictate how the SANDF uniform should be worn. The regulatory framework clearly stipulates no other clothing should be worn with official uniform, representative of the SANDF as a military institution. Members are expected to confirm” the statement adds.
It goes on to point out there are “many religious groups in the SANDF who practise their religions within the confines of the military culture observing its dictates.
“As the national defence force we have one culture which is a military culture therefore all members are expected to adhere to the military culture and code,” according to the statement.