Calls for the suspension of an Army general following his apparent personal involvement in attempting to have arrested soldiers released from police custody in Oudtshoorn are on hold while the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) investigates.
The call, made by opposition Freedom Front Plus party defence spokesman, Pieter Groenewald, and echoed by military analyst Helmoed Heitman, comes after the SA National Defence Union (Sandu) said the general deployed Ratels and busloads of armed soldiers to secure the release of soldiers arrested at a shebeen in Bongilethu, Oudtshoorn, last Friday.
The general, who has not been named by either the military trade union or the SANDF, reportedly went to the police station to demand the soldiers be released. When this was not acceded to he apparently returned with Ratels and armed soldiers. A brief stand-off with armed soldiers on the outside and armed police inside ensued before the soldiers were released. No shots were fired.
Indications are 31 soldiers were arrested at what police have called an “unlicensed liquor premises”. Western Cape police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said the arrested people, whose employment cannot be disclosed or verified, were released on admission of guilt charges.
Not known at this stage is whether those arrested were soldiers, to which unit they belonged or whether they were AWOL or off-duty.
SANDF Director: Corporate Communications, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, said the alleged confrontation between soldiers and police was being treated with the “seriousness it deserves”.
“The SANDF will study the incident report from the Infantry School and media reports to verify information in order to ascertain the exact circumstances around the alleged incident,” he said.
Groenewald said the general should be suspended “with immediate effect” because reports indicated he was drunk at the time.
“He must also be charged with obstructing the course of justice, abuse of State property and abusing a position of power.
“Actions of this nature are a further indication of poor discipline in the SANDF, especially when it is taken into account that a senior officer was apparently involved and sees himself as being above the law.”
Heitman said if reports were correct it was “an extremely serious situation”.
“A court martial should be underway. The commissioned officer involved, if it is true, should be jailed for life without the option of parole. It was a manifestly illegal act, a manifestly illegal order. No excuse at all, end of story,” IOL Online reported him as saying.