On 8 November at the South African Military Health Services (SAMHS) training formation in Thaba Tshwane, South Africa’s second Military Ombud, Lieutenant General Vusumuzi Masondo, was officially sworn into office.
The ceremony began with a parade in celebration of not only a new Military Ombud but also a new Chief of Staff. At the parade, Masondo gave his last address in uniform as Chief of Staff for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and expressed his faith in the abilities of his successor, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam in stating, “As I round off my tour of duty as Chief of Staff of the SANDF, I am emboldened by the knowledge that the officer that steps into this mammoth responsibility is equal to the task, and will efficiently carry the baton with pride and continue delivering the necessary strategic direction for our armed forces and support the Chief of the SANDF.”
Masondo also took the time to mention the financial constraints of the SANDF and strongly urged for the prioritizing of resourcing for the SANDF. “…In my capacity as Chief of Staff, I have raised the issue of these near crippling fiscal constraints to our principals in government at various fora and platforms, including but not limited to the Portfolio Committee on Defence, and we are both in agreement that the SANDF is in dire financial straits and its resourcing must be prioritized once the fiscal purse gives a space to move.”
Masondo concluded by officially handing over the office of Chief of Staff of the SANDF to Lieutenant General Lindile Yam.
Proceedings then made their way from the field of the SAMHS training formation to the function building to begin the swearing-in ceremony for the new Military Ombud. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave the keynote address in which she praised retired former Military Ombud, General Matanzima and highlighted that Masondo is now tasked with an oversight role of the institution that he served for over 30 years.
Mapisa-Nqakula went onto state, “Cynics will find it easy to point fingers at the institution you are taking the helm of…that as the Military Ombud, it will continue to be ‘the old boys’ club’. I do not want to believe that would be the case, as I will place reliance on you [Masondo] to assist me fulfil my role of civil oversight of the SANDF as the Executive Authority.”
Mapisa-Nqakula expressed her belief in Masondo’s ability as the new Military Ombud and formally handed over to Judge Malope-Sethosa to conduct Masondo’s swearing-in as South Africa’s second Military Ombud.
“The most important thing is the protection of the fundamental rights and freedom of members of the armed forces, and ensuring that there is minimisation of the violation of human rights,” said Mapisa Nqakula. She said to Masondo as he takes over the role of the Military Ombud, he must remain ever-cognisant of the institution’s independence and impartiality, and ensuring that justice is delivered to serving or retired members, as well as the South Africa’s public at large.
Masondo said he is ready to take the leadership role in the Office and will make sure that all the cases in the Office will be dealt with without fear, favour or prejudice. “The prevention of maladministration and human rights violations is essential in a democratic society. This prevention relies, in part, on the existence of a security sector that is both transparent and accountable,” said Masondo.
He said the Office has been given sufficient mandate by the Military Ombud Act, and it is upon him and the staff to carry out the mandate with due diligence.
The military ombud’s office is independent of the military command structure and ensures the military observes the principles and practices of good governance as well as behaves in accordance with the constitution and the law.Masondo takes his new position after his appointment by the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa. Masondo will serve in the position for a period of seven years.