New assault claims at Oudtshoorn infantry worries minister

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (AFP)

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. (AFP)

Defence ministry spokesperson Sonwabo Mbananga said Mapisa-Nqakula was concerned at the recent incident of alleged assault "after she had ordered two investigations into other incidents at the infantry school." The initial investigation was ordered in October last year after the suicide of a female recruit.

"When the report of this investigation was received, it was found to be inadequate, and the minister ordered a second probe and that this probe be conducted by that inspector general and must be widened to cover all the incidents of death, including those in the past," said Mbananga.

Mapisa-Nqakula received the report on May 6, coinciding with reports on the latest incidents which appeared in the media a day later.

She said the report received on Monday already pointed to lack of adherence to safety measures.

It also pointed at the inability of unit's boards of inquiry to conduct quality and conclusive investigations, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Mbananga said the minister directed that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the chief of the army conduct a preliminary investigation on the system failures identified in the report.

In addition, Mapisa-Nqakula directed the office of the military ombudsman to launch a full investigation into complaints by members at the infantry school as well as the general conditions under which recruits lived and trained at Oudtshoorn, he said.

On Tuesday, the SANDF said it would establish a board of inquiry to investigate punitive training sessions at the infantry school.

"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, which took place 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' phones were confiscated to ensure no photos or video footage was distributed, an angry mother told the newspaper.

The punitive session was arranged after the recruits left the base on Thursday to visit a pub. Mabanga confirmed this, but could not confirm the date.

"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."  – Sapa

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