Manthatisi and Vuk’uhlome BOIs still “in process”

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Military boards of inquiry (BOIs) into causes of deaths during two incidents last year are now in the hands of service commanders and military legal beagles ahead of making it to the desk of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya.

The first, involving the SA Navy (SAN) submarine SAS Manthatisi (S101) off Kommetjie in the Western Cape province, saw three submariners killed when undertaking an evolution in rough seas on 20 September.

Number two was a fire which raged through parts of the SA Army Combat Training Centre at Lohathla in the Northern Cape province less than a month later, on 6 October. The fire claimed six lives and saw equipment ranging from specialist military vehicles through to a container field hospital, water bunkers and fuel, among others, lost. Ahead of the CTC fire, preparations for the force preparation exercise Vuk’uhlome suffered an initial setback when four soldiers died in a road crash en route to the 160 000 hectare training area.

defenceWeb was this week informed by the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) after a request to SA Army Corporate Communication that the investigation into the CTC fire by a four-strong BOI was complete. It was headed by a major general supported by a colonel, lieutenant colonel and a warrant officer. “Recommendations were made” and the report is “currently under reviewed (sic) by the SANDF Legal service”. This, according to DCC Acting Director Colonel Selinah Rawlins, means recommendations cannot be disclosed as yet.

Among questions this publication is seeking response to is positioning of additional firefighting equipment and personnel at CTC prior to, during and post exercises and activities involving live ammunition being considered. Further questions relate to asking nearby local authorities – Postmasburg and Sishen – and the Kumba mine to assist/be on standby during live fire exercises.

The four-strong Manthatisi BOI was initially given a month to complete its work. This was extended by Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, for an undisclosed period the day its original mandate ran out. In February, defenceWeb was informed the BOI had completed its work with the report at the review stage.

The review process entails ensuring compliance with all applicable laws and regulations after which it goes to Maphwanya, who then briefs the defence and military veterans minister.

“The BOI will not be considered finished until all these processes are completed,” Commander Theo Mabina of SAN Public Relations told defenceWeb in a written response in February.