Ill-discipline in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is reaching critical levels, opposition Freedom Front Plus party defence spokesman Pieter Groenewald maintains following an incident in the Kruger National Park where a soldier allegedly verbally abused a ranger.
According to reports, charges of intimidation and racism have been laid against Rifleman Alfons Mosiuwa Mofula of 21 SA Infantry Battalion by SANParks following the December incident. Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen, Joint Operations spokesman, said the incident, which happened in December, was also the subject of a military inquiry currently underway.
Groenewald is no longer a member of Parliament’s Defence and Military veterans Portfolio committee but still keeps a weather eye on defence matters with discipline, or the lack of it, one of his major concerns with the South African military.
He points to, in recent times, lapses in discipline involving a major general, allegedly guilty of drunk driving and racism; another senior officer who is said to have threatened police in Oudtshoorn, which Groenewald maintains amounts to sedition, and the now infamous SA Air Force colonel who went shopping in her uniform wearing slippers.
In the Kruger National Park incident an on-duty ranger apparently asked soldiers to assist with an anti-rhino poaching patrol but was told, in no uncertain terms, the soldiers were not going on patrol. They were reportedly watching a soccer match on TV.
Retired Army Major General Johan Jooste, now in overall command of SANParks counter and anti-poaching operations told an Afrikaans Sunday newspaper the incident was “ugly” and it had been reported to police in Kruger.
Groenewald feels not enough is being done by military authorities to discipline those guilty of ill-discipline.
“If this trend is allowed to continue there could be loss of life and the SANDF could land up becoming a threat to itself,” he warned.
In July last year, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula noted that there were “serious problems of discipline within ranks”, a view also shared by her predecessor Lindiwe Sisulu. Mapisa-Nqakula said the problem was getting worse. “While we do have many women and men who are part of a dedicated and disciplined force making us proud everyday, I have also noted growing trends of incidents of indiscipline creeping into our defence force.” She had ordered service chiefs and commanders to “take direct responsibility” for enforcing discipline, reported Sapa.
South African troops have also behaved badly overseas – in June 2013 Mapisa-Nqakula revealed that 93 members of the SANDF serving with the UN peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo had had cases of misconduct brought against them. At least 23 of those cases involved rape, sexual abuse, the assault of women and sexual exploitation. However, only 15 of the 93 soldiers were actually convicted of misconduct.