Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) late last year heard two top personnel were “removed” from an infantry unit for apparently not following prescribed drills allegedly in connection with issues of fraud and corruption.
SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam, according to the minutes of a November JSCD meeting, said the Officer Commanding and Regimental Sergeant Major of 9 SA Infantry Battalion were “removed”, an action queried by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow minister of defence and military veterans, Kobus Marais.
He wanted clarity on how two people, in this instance the most senior commissioned and non-commissioned officers in the unit, could be removed before an inquiry was established and concluded. The committee resolved to schedule another meeting to look specifically at security and criminal issues at military bases and facilities including the 9 SAI one. “The Department of Defence (DoD) will have to respond to questions at this meeting and engage (with the committee) on mitigation plans,” according to the minutes.
The JSCD minutes of the November meeting also point out committee members were “disappointed” by a statement attributed to the Chief of the SA Army blaming the current situation on the integration process which established the SANDF more than 20 years ago.
Marais said information from the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) purported to show the SANDF had a general for each 250 soldiers.
“One would expect with so many senior officers that discipline, security and prevention of crime, including fraud, would be a high priority. We (the JSCD) have seen is not the case and even generals are blaming it on integration which apparently saw many ‘criminal elements’ finding their way into the SANDF,” he said.
The “removal” of what is effectively the top management of 9 SAI, was made known to the Parliamentary committee at around the same time it was announced that two general officers in the SANDF were under investigation in connection with alleged fraud charges. One of them is Major General Nontobeko Mpaxa, currently the highest ranked female officer in the SANDF as Director: Force Preparation of the SA Army. The name of a second general officer arrested in connection with similar charges has not yet been made public, despite defenceWeb requesting more information from Department of Defence head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini.
Marais said his party supported “harsh action” against wrongdoing. This included fraud, theft and other white collar crimes.
He feels that so many officers in positions of authority they should set an example for the lower ranks. “Similarly when they are caught examples must be made of them”.