No-one to blame for Infantry School deaths – SA Army

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No blame can be apportioned for the death of at least 13 recruits during training at the SA Infantry School in Oudtshoorn an SA Army board of enquiry has found.

The board was constituted by the SA Army following the death of Rifleman NR Ngcobo who apparently committed suicide. This was apparently as a result of fraternisation between instructors and students. The board recommended measures be put in place to prevent similar incidents as well as having instructors sign a declaration “not to get involved” with students.

Other deaths at the school, considered to be one of the leading training institutions in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), have been attributed to illness including a heart attack, vehicle accidents and exposure.

Acknowledgement of the situation at the school came earlier this year when Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered an investigation following allegations of brutality during punitive training that apparently led to the hospitalisation of some students.

The board recommendation that the use of inexperienced instructors should be reviewed and that more chaplains, doctors and psychologists should be posted to the Infantry School.

SA Army chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo said this would be difficult to implement because the SA Military Health Service is “struggling” with doctors and psychologists to support all units. He did however note that two chaplains each have been allocated to all Army units.

Another recommendation is that medical evaluation of students at Infantry School should be improved. This is because “medically unfit” students arrive for training.

Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier said it was “unthinkable” no-one could be held responsible for the deaths.
“I now look forward to the finding of the Ministerial investigation and that of the SANDF ombudsman, Lieutenant General (ret) TT Matanzima.”