Another bloody nose for military legal services

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The Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) had its legal nose bloodied again this week.

A 36-year veteran, senior warrant officer took the former officer commanding of the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) at Lohathla to court in connection with unlawful arrest. The High Court in Kimberley found in his favour and it appears charges of hate speech will now be brought against the woman general.

She is Brigadier General Nontobeka Mpaxa, now Officer Commanding the SA Army Intelligence Formation.

The case dates back to 2010 when Warrant Officer At Malan was allegedly arrested by military police at CTC and then sworn and spat at by Mpaxa, Afrikaans daily Beeld reported. An amount of more than R500 000 is being sought as damages in the civil case.

Add to this the acquittals last month of 664 soldiers charged with AWOL in connection with the now infamous 2009 soldiers protest march to the Union buildings and the military’s legal services has now seen more than 780 soldiers apparently part of the protest go free.

Another high profile case involving SANDF legal services which has dragged on for more than a year – the illegal landing of a privately chartered jet at AFB Waterkloof – is also starting to irritate Sandu (SA National Defence Union).

Earlier this week its general secretary Pikkie Greeff said notice had been served on the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) seeking information about two of its members apparently implicated in Guptagate, as the incident has become known.

Sandu has given the SANDF 30 days to indicate whether it intends going ahead with charges against lieutenant colonels Christine Anderson and Stephanus van Zyl. Alternatively charges against the pair, the last two facing legal action over the incident, must be dropped.

Both have been suspended while investigations and Military Court hearings are underway. At the time of publication they were still in limbo.

DoDMV spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini told Johannesburg daily, The Star, he could not confirm whether or not the Sandu notice had been received by the military.

Former Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) state protocol director Bruce Koloane was also suspended and demoted following an investigation conducted by the director-general of government departments, including DRICO and the DoDMV. He has since been given a diplomatic posting to The Netherlands.

That leaves only the two SA Air Force officers still facing charges, in their case now of disobeying a lawful order, in connection with Guptagate.

In its 2012/13 annual report the DoDMV showed its legal services division as managing a just under 15% success rate in litigation. Of the 104 cases that went to court in the period under review by far the majority of rulings – 90 – went against lawyers representing the military with only 14 in their favour.