The South African military maintains it was “aware” of the recruitment and training scam running north-west of Pretoria where more than 200 young men and women were allegedly living in a four-bedroomed house while being trained with an apparent promise of work in the defence force.
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Director: Defence Corporation Communication, said the defence force was aware of the matter which was “firstly reported to the SANDF recruitment centre”.
He added victims of what he termed fraud were referred to the SA Police Service (SAPS) to open a case as “the matter is beyond SANDF jurisdiction”.
Mgobozi said in response to questions regarding the involvement of the Gauteng provincial Department of Social Development to assist the victims, who had apparently been evicted from the lodgings because of non-payment of rent, was done by SAPS Rosslyn.
“The station commander invited Social Development to assist in dealing with the matter,” he said.
The recruitment scam appears to be the most involved in recent similar instances where chancers pick out young, unemployed people and offer them “guaranteed” work in the SANDF on payment of money.
Last month’s scam, run by one General Ndaba under the auspices of an organisation called Amabutho Royal Defence, is now over for the victims who have all been transported back to their homes – mostly in KwaZulu-Natal – by the provincial social welfare department. Ndaba was arrested and appeared in the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court on charges theft under false pretences.
Ahead of the court appearance the SANDF said in a statement Ndaba was previously a member of the then SA Defence Force and served at 115 SA Infantry Battalion in Pretoria. He was, according to Mgobozi, arrested and charged with murder in 1993. After being tried in a civilian court he was sentenced to 15 years in jail of which he apparently served just over six before being released.
This incident has wider implications than for just the South African military, maintains defence analyst Darren Olivier of African Defence Review.
“Military recruitment scams are becoming more prevalent, reflecting the desperation of so many jobless young South Africans in a shrinking economy.
“The SANDF obviously cannot do much about the economic malaise and poor leadership facing the country, but I feel they’re not doing all they can to stop scams like this preying on the vulnerable. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate we can expect these scams to increase and become ever more involved.
“I’d suggest the problem is now big enough it would be worth setting up a specialised cross-department task team with members from the SAPS, SANDF Defence Intelligence and Military Police as well as the Department of Social Development to combat it.
“While the SANDF does warn against recruitment scams, it’s clear they’re not reaching all the people they need to. So again a multi-department approach would make sense, to use the facilities and reach of other departments to help further educate rural South Africans not only about these scams but about opportunities that might exist in the EPWP (expanded public works programme) and elsewhere,” he said.
Asked about co-operation with other government departments and agencies on co-operation to combat illegal recruiting operations, Mgobozi did not respond.