Military ombud has resolved more than half of 760 complaints


A year and 10 months into operations proper, the military ombudsman has resolved 480 of more than 760 complaints brought by servicemen and women unhappy about certain aspects of their military lives.

Retired general TT Matanzima is South Africa’s first military ombudsman and he has pulled together a lean, mean and results driven team.

While the Office of the Military Ombud officially came into being in 2012, staffing only started in February last year. Following three targeted recruitment phases Matanzima now has 53 operational and support personnel working for him in the EcoPark, Centurion, offices.

Apart from its prime function of investigating complaints brought by airmen, medics, sailors and soldiers serving in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), Matanzima’s team also actively markets the services of the Ombud to the military across the country.

This has seen outreach activities in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, North-West and Gauteng. Matanzima plans to have visited all nine provinces by the time the 2014/15 financial year comes to an end in March. The outreach sees Military Ombud personnel visit military bases where, with the necessary approval from senior officers, they tell uniformed personnel exactly what the Ombud is about and how it can make their careers in uniform better.

A year and 10 months into operations proper and Ombud personnel have received more than 760 complaints, through the correct channels. That the right people have been selected as investigators can be seen from the high rate of finalisation of complaints – by the end of September, 483 had been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Matanzima said the turn-around time for finalisation of complaints varied.
“Depending on the nature of the complaint, availability of evidence with some complaints going back as far 1993, availability of witnesses and other factors, the rule of thumb is that the Office strives to finalise each complaint within 90 days if it is a matter capable of early resolution and where an in-depth investigation is required the period may vary from 90 days to six months and longer.
“Given the available resources and existing capacity, we are proud of the progress the Office has made so far and are hopeful that as our systems and processes mature the Office will perform even better,” he said.

The primary task of the Office of the Military Ombud is to deal with complaints lodged by members and former members of the SANDF regarding conditions of service.
“It is our hope that in doing our work properly as envisaged in law, we will in a small way contribute to improved morale in the SANDF and help to promote accountability of the SANDF,” Matanzima said.