In January this year Freedom Front Plus defence and security spokesman Pieter Groenewald warned of the danger of political correctness becoming subservient to military expertise.
He gave two examples. The first was the then new Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Mosuwa Hlongwane, who became the country’s top maritime officer despite having no combat or operational experience.
The second was then newly minted major general Nontobeko Mpaxa. She was named Chief Director: Force Preparation for the SA Army after serving for a year as the first woman commander of the Army’s Intelligence Formation and becoming the first woman to head force preparation in the landward arm of service.
Groenewald said at the time charges laid against her while she was commandant of the Combat Training Centre (CTC) at Lohathla made her promotion “counter-productive for morale and discipline in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)”.
This has come full circle with Mpaxa found guilty in the Kimberley High Court last month in a civil case brought by a Warrant Officer in 2010. She now faces the possibility of having to face charges of hate speech in connection with the successful civil claim.
It is, as Independent Newspapers’ legal writer Carmel Rickard points out, “a poser for the SANDF”.
“Should they settle a claim for more than R500 000 or fight on and risk the fall-out of a senior officer taking the witness box again to answer questions about anti-white insults she allegedly hurled at a subordinate?
“The finding clears the way for the High Court to hear evidence on how much Malan (the warrant officer who laid charges against Mpaxa) should be paid in damages – and for a possible hare speech charge by him against one of the most senior women in the defence force,” Rickard wrote in her Legal Matters blog.
The SANDF legal team assigned to Mpaxa conceded the arrest and detention of Malan had been unlawful as he was acting to protect military property.
“The force used to arrest Malan – and any injury he sustained – was unlawful. This, and Mpaxa’s behaviour, will be a focus of Malan’s legal team during the next phase of the case when they argue he should be awarded substantial damages.
“And no doubt the court will be interested to know why someone trying to stop unlawful use of army property should be assaulted and arrested rather than praised and promoted,” Rickard wrote.