IFP: Alleged Oudtshoorn abuse bad for army

"This incident will have a negative impact on the South African National Defence Force [SANDF]," Inkatha Freedom Party spokesperson Albert Mncwango said.

"Parents may be reluctant to let their sons and daughters join the SANDF due to the brutal treatment," he said.

On Tuesday, the SANDF said a board of inquiry had been set up to investigate the training session.

"Action will be taken against anyone who might have acted out of the rule which governs the type of punishment befitting the violation, because the punishment should be equal to the violation committed," said SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga.

Several army recruits reportedly needed medical treatment after the training session.

According to Beeld, the training session – on Thursday night and Friday morning – was apparently halted at the request of medical officers at the base because they feared the recruits would not survive.

All the recruits' cellphones were confiscated to ensure no photos or video footage was distributed, an angry mother told the newspaper. "The children live in a state of extreme anxiety," she said.

Punitive session
The punitive session was arranged after the recruits left the base on Thursday to visit a pub. According to Beeld, 10 recruits were forced to carry around poles and if anyone dropped these poles they were beaten with broomsticks.

One of the recruits was reportedly still in a local hospital. It was feared that another might lose the use of his arm. Mabanga confirmed that the training session took place, but said he was aware of only five, not 10, troops being punished.

"We are aware of five people that sneaked out of the camp and went to drink in a local pub. Then they were brought back. They were dressed in their military training gear and yes, they were punished in a way that fitted the type of violation." He said the inquiry would determine whether anyone had acted unfairly.

He had not yet received the inquiry's results.

On Tuesday, South African National Defence Union spokesperson Pikkie Greeff said the recruits were given physical training (PT) as punishment, which he said was illegal.

Mabanga disputed this and said Greeff was not a member of the SANDF.

"PT can be used as a corrective measure. However, when it is done excessively, whether in training or as punishment, it is not allowed."

Greeff said he was told there were 11 recruits involved in the session and that what happened to them went far beyond PT.

He said this was not the first questionable incident at the camp. In August, a woman recruit committed suicide there. At the time, Sandu claimed the suicide note made reference to humiliation by base management.

Greeff said: "It can't go on like this … It's not a military camp anymore, it's a prison camp." Asked about the hospitalisation of recruits after the training session, Mbanga said he had not heard of this.

"Not to my knowledge," he said.

On Wednesday, Mncwango said the officials who conducted the training session should be held accountable.

"The SANDF should remove them and institute criminal charges if they are found to have been negligent in any way.

"The infantry school should not be a brutal boot camp, but a training camp which produces disciplined soldiers that are patriotic and ready to lay down their lives in defence of our country and our democracy." – Sapa

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