Military Ombud ready to take up public complaints against soldiers
The office of the Military Ombud has urged citizen to approach the office should they feel aggrieved by the conduct of the soldiers involved in the policing of the current lockdown and general conduct of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members beyond the period.
A member of the SANDF questions a pedestrian, 27 March 2020, in Johannesurg, on day one of the 21 day national lockdown, following President Cyril Ramaphosa declaration of a National Disaster as a result of Covid-19 Coronavirus. Picture: Michel Bega
The office was established as a watchdog to oversee the conduct of the SANDF in the official execution of its duties. The public and even retired or former members of the force with complaints about it can bring their grievances to the office, which is in Pretoria.
The Ombud in a statement on Wednesday assured citizens it remained accessible to assist those who feel aggrieved by the official conduct of soldiers. The call came after complaints against SANDF members who assaulted and kicked people found walking or enjoying themselves in the streets during the shutdown.
“We note that the Department of Defence (DoD) released a statement yesterday taking note of various allegations of abuse by deployed members of the SANDF who are supporting Government efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic. In the statement the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans denounces any type or form of abuse committed by deployed soldiers against members of the public during the 21-days lockdown period,” the ombud said.
Those who want to lodge a complaint with the Military Ombud Office were advised to provide a description of the incident including: date, time and place of incident. The office said the names of the soldier or soldiers involved should be visible on their name tags on their uniform and those must be submitted in the complaint.
The public was also asked to supply the names and contact particulars of witnesses to the incident and the recordings of any incident if available – video or voice.
Members of the public have 90 days to lodge a complaint with the office from the date of the incident. If they had lodged a complaint with law enforcement agencies and the matter is before court or the court has ruled, the office won’t have jurisdiction.
South African Military Ombud Lt Gen (Ret) Vusumuzi Masondo said communities needed to be informed of the existence of the office and the assistance they could get from it.
“Our job is to make sure that complaints that come through our office are handled professionally and rights of citizens of the country are protected without compromise,” said Masondo.
He stressed that people must not bring issues of police conduct to him. Instead they should go to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which deals with the SAPS.
Masondo said the complaint form could be downloaded from the ombud’s website www.milombud.org. Complainants could complete it and forward it via email to email@example.com or fax it to 086 523 2296.