Umzimvubu Regiment call-up saga now with SANDF legal beagles

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Longevity-wise, the 2021 Umzimvubu Regiment call-up saga is a far cry from the ‘Stalingrad tactics’ of Jacob Zuma’s legal team but the most recent official response on the issue seemingly points to what can be termed legal foot dragging.

The Umzimvubu Regiment call-up to assist in quelling violence in KwaZulu-Natal following the former South African president’s incarceration at the Estcourt correctional facility is now in the hands of the legal officer in the office of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief, General Rudzani Maphwanya. That’s as per a written reply, dated 9 June, by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise to a question posed by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence minister Kobus Marais.

Along with DA colleague Maliyakhe Shelembe and United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa, Marais has consistently pressed for answers on the botched call-up. Those who responded to the instruction found themselves in a far from satisfactory camp lacking decent ablution facilities, proper rations as well as sleeping arrangements and, among others, had to endure a human resources system described by a unit officer as “a shambles”.

The 822 volunteers who responded to the call-up have still not been paid, despite Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) being told in April the recommendations of the second board of inquiry (BOI) into the call-up, including “consideration for compensation” are approved. Since the call-up, 20 of the volunteers have since passed away.

Marais’ latest Umzimvubu Regiment question sought to ascertain when the Reserve Force soldiers will be paid for the 2021 call-up and why this hasn’t happened yet. A single Ministerial sentence reply reads “The BOI on Umzimvubu Regiment is with C SANDF’s legal office for review and assessment on recommendations made by C Army,” adding “further actions can only be taken after finalisation of the legal process.”

An Umzimvubu soldier choosing anonymity for obvious reasons told defenceWeb: “Two BOIs, approval for the outcome of the second in November last year that all be paid on hold as it appears C SANDF wants to go the legal route. Crazy!”