by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG – THE South African Military Ombud is advocating for the creation of similar institutions in the continent in order to enhance peace.
Established in 2012, it is the only such institution in Africa.
Lt Gen Temba Matanzima, the outgoing South African Military Ombudsman, disclosed the organisation would continue lobbying support and collaborate with other Ombud institutions and the defence sector in Africa and strive for the creation of Military Ombud institutions or mechanisms in the continent.
Speaking at the just-concluded seventh South African Military Ombud Annual Symposium, held east of Johannesburg, Matanzima said this would be done through cross-border cooperation and capacity building, especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc.
He said this “African Footprint” initiative was taking forward the recommendations made during the tenth International Conference of Ombud Institutions for the Armed Forces (10ICOAF) Africa Day Symposium held in South Africa in October 2018.
“Ombuds institutions are critical to a peaceful Africa, and should serve as independent and impartial institutions,” Matanzima said on Friday.
“These institutions must continuously aspire to leverage administrative oversight, accountability, democratic governance and alternative dispute resolutions within the armed forces in order to accelerate complaints resolution and help enhance credibility to the citizens-in-uniform,” he added.
Matanzima pointed out the military environment had evolved over time from that of authoritarian to that of recognising fundamental rights of members in the armed force.
“As such, security sector reform has become the norm rather than the enemy,” he said.
“The window of opportunity necessitates that we all reflect and debate on how the military can play a positive role in enhancing and promoting good governance and promote the culture of human rights.”
The South African Military Ombud Annual Symposium was held under the theme, “The Role of Oversight over the Armed Forces in the Contemporary African Context.”
Ambassador Smail Chergui, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security, praised the only Military Ombud in the continent.
It was created to investigate complaints lodged by a member and former members of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) regarding their conditions of service. The office also investigates complaints brought by members of the public against SANDF member’s personal conduct in public.
“I wish to applaud the South African Military Ombud for its commitment to host and facilitate discussion and advocacy on good practices regarding the importance of armed forces oversight, to enhance capacity, integrity, accountability and respect of human rights within the armed forces in Africa,” Chergui stated.
Major-General Trust Mugoba, Chief of Staff in the African Standby Force, read the statement on Chergui’s behalf.
Maj Gen Mugoba is former Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Chief of Staff, who was moved to the African Union (AU) to command a millitary wing of the bloc’s force.
Participants from around Africa attended the event to exchange experience and knowledge on the field of military oversight.
– CAJ News