South Africa’s military grievance system, in the form of the Military Ombud Office, has only been operational for three years but has built a reputation that will see retired major general Temba Matanzima address an international conference in the Czech Republic later this month.
Matanzima, who has held the Ombud position since inception of the office, will lead the South African delegation to the seventh International Conference of Ombud Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF) in Prague from October 25 to 27.
He will give the conference a South African view on the role of an Ombud for armed forces in a democratic society and also provide some insights on current affairs in South Africa.
Matanzima’s address dovetails with one of the conference’s main themes – the role of Ombud institutions in democratic societies.
Other conference themes are civil and political rights of armed forces personnel; citizens in uniform; conducting effective investigations and the relationship between Ombud offices and civil society as far as oversight of armed forces is concerned.
Since its inception in 2012, Matanzima’s office has received more than a thousand complaints, the majority lodged by SANDF members but some also coming from civilians.
An Ombud statement has it that “the office has made serious inroads in reaching out to all members of the SANDF in promoting its mandate, role and responsibility across the country”.
ICOAF conferences bring together Ombud representatives from countries around the world to exchange information and share experiences on functions and good practice.
Representatives from Ombud institutions/offices from Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Ivory Coast, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mali, Mongolia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Nepal, Niger, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States have and are taking part in ICOAF initiatives.
South Africa has been named host country for the 2018 IOCAF conference and initial estimates are representatives from at least 40 countries will attend to deliberate on military Ombud institutions and offices.