The SA Army Infantry School at Oudtshoorn is well and truly under the microscope following reports of another round of punitive training which resulted in serious injury to at least one soldier.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has ordered another investigation, this time by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Inspector General. She wants this investigation to include a deeper investigation into previous incidents at the premier infantry training base.
According to her spokesman Sonwabo Mbananga, the Minister received the report of the first investigation 24 hours before the second alleged incident at the School.
“I am concerned that just before we could announce the findings of the initial investigation another incident occurred.
“The report received on Monday (May 6) already points to lack of adherence to safety measures during training and the inability of the Unit’s (Infantry School’s) boards of inquiry to conduct quality and conclusive investigations. Many of the inquiries were inconclusive and cases were left open or under review, some dating back to 2009,” Mapisa-Nqakula said in an indictment of the management systems operational at the Infantry School.
The gaps in the first report will now see SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke and SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo lead a preliminary investigation into system failures at the Oudtshoorn military training facility through the office of the SANDF Inspector General.
Mapisa-Nqakula wants this investigation to “correct deficiencies that have exposed recruits and instructors to a hazardous and generally unsafe working environment”.
The investigation has been tasked with, among others, adherence to SANDF training policy, leadership, medical support, implementation of directives and the effectiveness of grievance management.
She sees it contributing to the current review of training procedures in the SANDF.
Complaints by recruits and troops in training at the Infantry School will now be dealt with by the Military Ombudsman, Lieutenant General TT Mantanzima. His office will also investigate living and training conditions at Oudtshoorn.
An indication of the seriousness Mapisa-Nqakula attaches to the issues at Oudtshoorn comes in her tight deadline for the investigation to be completed. She wants final paperwork on her desk by May 17.
Several army recruits reportedly needed medical treatment after a punitive training session on Thursday night and Friday morning. It was apparently halted at the request of medical officers at the base because they feared the recruits would not survive.
The punitive session was arranged after the recruits left the base on Thursday to visit a pub.