It appears the senior command structure of the national defence force is not an active participant into an ongoing Public Protector (PP) investigation of how and why an unregistered Cuban drug was acquired by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The investigation by Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office is one of three. The others are a task team appointed by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and a SA Police Service (SAPS) one initiated by Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Kobus Marais.
Last week Marais told defenceWeb the PP advocate leading the Cuban drug investigation received feedback from the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) with no response from the SANDF, probably in the form of its military health service. A deadline of Friday, 30 April, came and went without any PP/SANDF contact. This, according to Johannesburg daily The Citizen, will see the Chapter Nine institution “resorting to hard powers”.
PP Spokesman Oupa Segwale is reported as saying this includes subpoenaing the SANDF.
“The Military Command Council (MCC) appears to be refusing to co-operate with the PP.
“It is bound by the same Constitution and rule of law as all South Africans and it seems Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s poor leadership has trickled down, leading the SANDF top tier, Chief General Solly Shoke, Chief of Logistics Lieutenant General Morris Moadira, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Lindile Yam and the Surgeon General Lieutenant General Zola Dabula, to believe their actions will be without consequence,” Marais said, adding he is “encouraging” the PP to go the subpoena route if the MCC does not respond.
“The continued national state of disaster does not give SANDF the right to treat South Africa as its personal playground. It certainly does not give the MCC the right to abuse budgets and endeavour to experiment on soldiers. It’s time those in power realised the responsibility their positions come with,” he said in a statement.
The “experiment” reference is to the Cuban Interferon drug’s use in treating soldiers and other military personnel to apparently prevent coronavirus infection. This is one aspect of the SAHPRA investigation while the alleged circumvention of regulations pertaining to importing medication is another.