Just over four months after Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered a full investigation to correct “a hazardous and generally unsafe working environment at the SA Army Infantry School”, the Oudtshoorn unit has reported another death.
The death of an as yet unnamed soldier who was apparently on guard duty at an outside field base on August 7 has been slammed by the SA National Defence Union (Sandu).
The Infantry School is widely acknowledged as the premier training facility for future officers in the SA Army Infantry Formation and the apparent non-compliance with SA National Defence Force (SANDF) training policy was one of the aspects highlighted by Mapisa-Nqakula for the investigation to concentrate on. Others were leadership, medical support, implementation of directives and the effectiveness of grievance management.
The soldier, apparently attending a training course for platoon leaders, was found dead and indications are he died of exposure and/or hypothermia Sandu national secretary Pikkie Greeff said.
Earlier this year claims of abuse against soldiers at the School who were apparently subjected to punitive training after being absent without leave prompted the country largest defence trade union to label the base “infamous”.
Over the past 18 months at least one other death has been reported from the Infantry School as well as a number of incidents where troops were allegedly subjected to physical abuse and assault. The death, last August, was apparently suicide and Sandu said at the time the suicide note made reference to humiliation by base management. Reports of sexual and racial discrimination have also reached Sandu.
Greeff said Sandu was “most concerned” the death happened after numerous complaints by the union to the Minister about the lack of proper military management and the disregard shown for the well-being of soldiers at Infantry School.
“Neither the Minister, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke nor the Military Ombudsman, Lieutenant General (ret) TT Matanzima, can up to now show a single step taken to effectively deal with the questionable and unprofessional base management. In the meantime the body count rises with alarming regularity.
“How many more soldiers must die in Oudtshoorn before the Department of Defence gets its act together? It is a matter of national shame that authorities drag their heels while our soldiers die tragic and unnecessary deaths that have nothing to do with combat and everything with questionable command and control.”