Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald questions the “employment” of soldiers and their numbers during Operation Notlela, the national defence force’s contribution to the coronavirus induced national state of disaster.
Speaking after last week’s defence budget adjustment vote, Groenewald who is an alternate of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, said the numbers and timing of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) “employment” (using Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa’s word) was “incomprehensible”.
“When the spread of the virus was not as extensive, almost the entire defence force was deployed, Now, with the pandemic reaching its peak, the number of deployed soldiers is reduced to 20 000. This begs the question of whether it was sensible and justified to initially deploy almost the entire defence force,” he asked.
Elaborating on the conduct of at least some soldiers during Notlela, Groenewald maintains this was representative of the “true colours and calibre” of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
“It appears to be the norm and now has a name – Collins Khosa,” the former Commando said in reference to the death of the Alexandra resident, allegedly beaten by soldiers for apparently drinking alcohol in his garden over the Easter weekend.
Groenewald blames this attitude, at least partially, on South Africa’s top soldier, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke.
He asks if Shoke’s reported statement as regards “skop en donner” of people not adhering to lockdown regulations can be acceptable.
“One cannot help but think soldiers will not act differently if that is the example set by their chief,” Groenewald said adding video of soldiers repeating the “skop en donner” words and apparently executing its exhortation was brought to Ramaphosa’s attention.
“It brought shame to the SANDF and is a blemish on the force’s reputation,” he said.