Umzimvubu Regiment call-up saga is over, defence committee hears

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It’s taken close on two years to settle issues, ranging from deaths, no pay and bad living conditions, around a Reserve Force unit call-up.

Eastern Cape-based Umzimvubu Regiment was called-up to support police in curbing unrest, looting and violence in KwaZulu-Natal in mid-2021. The call-up seemingly deteriorated into chaos with a lack of personnel records added to insufficient accommodation, among others, resulting in a board of inquiry (BOI) set up to investigate.

That it did not meet its objectives became clear when a review was called for. This also did not measure up and a second BOI had to re-investigate.

The botched call-up saga attracted the attention of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) which placed it on a number of agendas seeking explanations from the SA Army Command. Others who took up cudgels on behalf of the part-time soldiers were United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa and Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.

At a mid-April meeting the JSCD was told whatever issues there were – and possibly still are – around the call-up of the first SA Army Reserve unit established since 1994 are over.

This is confirmed by part of a presentation to the JSCD. It reads: “Chief of the SA Army endorses the findings and recommendation of the BOI and forwarded to the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) for decision: The members responsible should be held accountable through military justice system and both affected enlistees that meet the criteria and those who do not meet the criteria for call-up, to be considered for compensation”.

The call-up is – in brief – summarised in the presentation as including administrative challenges, alleged non-payment, which saw the BOI convened, convening of a follow-up BOI due to “additional information/evidence” followed by a second BOI.