New Military Discipline Bill on the way


Participation in strikes, secondary strikes and unlawful or illegal labour actions will in future be sufficient grounds for dismissal from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

This is one of any number of provisions contained in a draft Military Discipline Bill (MDB) that went before Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) last week.

The passing into legislation and implementation of the bill, which also makes provision for an American type Judge Advocate General (JAG) rather that the current Adjutant General, is not expected to happen before November this year. This is because there are “possible Constitutional challenges regarding the appointment of military judges” as well as the “status of the military court” according to a Defence Legal Services Division (DLSD) presentation to the JSCD.

The MDB incorporates military and other offences as its Schedule One with Schedule Two being misconduct for the purposes of a military disciplinary hearing and Schedule Three being “mainly Schedule One of the Criminal Procedure Act and certain additional offences”.

Among its objectives the MDB has is “the empowerment of commanders to effect military discipline in the SANDF as required by the Constitution”; provide for proper administration of military justice; administrative discharge or dismissal and suspension with or without pay.

The new bill leaves the Court of Military Appeals much the same as it was previously with both appeal and review powers as the highest military court in the country.

Empowering measures included in the draft bill include those relating to accountability and appeal, pre-trial investigation, management of sexual offences and sentences.

Sentences are expanded and penalties increased as regards corrective training, fatigue duties, rehabilitative labour, extra drills, military community service and compulsory rehabilitation.

While amounts are not specified, fines of “commensurate value” can be imposed and calculated according to days or months of a sentence.

The draft MDB lists four offences that will incur automatic discharge or dismissal and does not specify them as “dishonourable”. They are AWOL (absent without official leave); desertion; imprisonment, without the option of a fine and “circumstances described in the Sexual Offences Act”.