Civilians part of Military Ombud KZN outreach

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Retired general Vusi Masondo, South Africa’s military Ombud, wants ordinary people to know they can complain to his office about the conduct of soldiers.

Staff from his Centurion headquarters are, according to a statement, visiting military bases in Durban to “educate” SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel on the Ombud’s mandate and procedures to follow when lodging complaints.

The KwaZulu-Natal outreach is part of a programme that started two years ago with Eastern Cape cities Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha) and Mthatha first on the call list.

The KwaZulu-Natal visit is different in that it’s the first time people living near military bases and where soldiers are or were deployed will be given an insight into how to approach the Ombud if they witness and are concerned about the way soldiers execute tasks assigned them.

“The public has a right to complain concerning official conduct of SANDF members in their authorised capacity,” an Ombud office statement said adding it is important for serving and former SANDF personnel to know what the Ombud is and does.

Masondo’s office does not discriminate between complaints brought to it by uniformed personnel or civilians. The extension of its outreach programme is a result of increased numbers of complaints made since the COVID-19 pandemic made itself felt in South Africa, via sickness and death as well as restrictive regulations imposed by government to prevent the virus spreading.

“Lockdown gave rise to a number of complaints by the public regarding official conduct of soldiers. We realised there is a need for the Ombud office to visit communities and educate them as to their rights when interacting with the military.

“Our job is to make sure complaints received are handled professionally and the rights of all citizens are protected without compromise.”

In addition to SA Army units in and around the KwaZulu-Natal port city, Military Ombud staff will also call on Air Force Base (AFB) Durban, home to 15 Squadron, and Naval Base (NB) Durban, the home of the SA Navy (SAN) offshore patrol vessel (OPV) squadron. SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) units and detachments will also receive Ombud guidance.