Ongoing attempts by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to prevent unauthorised – and illegal – use of its uniform yielded a good result when social media users put into the public domain a Vereeniging shop owner allegedly selling items of military uniform.
The exposure attracted the attention of military police from the Johannesburg area office after being told of the Voortrekker Road shop by a national defence force colleague. A detachment of MPs visited the shop in the south Gauteng city and, according to a SANDF Corporate Communications statement, found the shop owner “selling various garments ranging from shirts, trousers and short pants using military camouflage material”.
The shop owner was arrested and appeared in court where he was released pending further investigation.
Brigadier Mafi Mgobozi, Director: Defence Corporate Communication, thanked and “applauded” the soldier who brought the matter to the attention of military police after seeing the social media posting.
“The SANDF has, on numerous occasions, expressed concerns about the unabated illegal use of military combat dress and come out strongly with a warning to civilians wearing uniform, especially camouflage solely for the use by authorised members of the SANDF or members identified by the Chief of the SANDF and appointed honorary members of various military units (sic).
“The SANDF reiterates that any person who is illegally wearing the SANDF camouflage and is not a member of the SANDF and not authorised to use the patented camouflage, such a person is guilty of an offence in terms of the Defence Act. If found guilty, a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years can be imposed,” Mgobozi is reported as saying in the statement.
Proof of the seriousness with which the South African military views unauthorised use of its uniforms and insignia comes in the form of a five year jail sentence handed down in the Pretoria Regional Court in May this year.
The recipient of the judge’s pronouncement was Irvin Thapelo Mokgosi, sentenced in absentia after his lawyer pleaded guilty on his behalf in court. Mokgosi was charged with “falsely representing himself as an SANDF member and for possessing and/or wearing uniform with distinctive marks or crests belonging to the SANDF without the necessary authority.
He was arrested in Thaba Tshwane last April when personnel from 21 SA Infantry Battalion, headquartered at Doornkop, south of Johannesburg, were reporting for Presidential inauguration duty at Loftus Versfeld stadium. Unconfirmed reports have it Mokgosi wanted to be part of the event.
Previous arrests have been for civilians, usually actors or musicians wearing SANDF camouflage, usually the battle jacket, while on stage or for television performances.