It appears an investigation by the Military Ombudsman has taken preference over an internal SA National Defence Force (SANDF) one with no less than 16 instructors attached to the Infantry School appearing in court this week.
Their appearance is in connection with the alleged assault of recruits at the Oudtshoorn facility two years ago, Johannesburg daily Beeld reports.
Apparently some of the recruits undergoing basic military training at the Army’s premier infantry training facility were assaulted so badly that at least one recruit partially lost the ability to use one of his arms.
A military court sitting in the Klein Karoo town is hearing the case against the instructors, ranging in rank from lance corporals to captains, who are provisionally facing four charges. These include behaviour not in line with military discipline, abuse of lesser ranks and failure to institute orders as regards corrective training.
The newspaper said the hearing was “unexpected” following findings by an internal SANDF board of enquiry that no-one could be held responsible for the alleged maltreatment.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula earlier indicated those charged in connection with this incident would be dealt with internally by the Department of Defence (DoD). Beeld said the internal investigation mentioned only nine instructors who were apparently part of the alleged assault.
“The charges brought stem from the Military Ombudsman’s investigation and not the SANDF one,” the paper said.
Other internal investigations into apparent wrongdoing by instructors found no-one could be held responsible. The incidents include a recruit dying of exposure following a water exercise in winter and a female recruit shooting herself with a service weapon after she was allegedly identified in front of her colleagues as “a loose woman”.
Another Infantry School incident saw the immediate past and current officers commanding in the Oudtshoorn regional court after they apparently demanded the release, at the threat of gunpoint, of soldiers. The soldiers were arrested by police following an altercation at a local shebeen.
The case against the instructors has been postponed to April 10 while the case against the senior officers will be heard on April 20.