South Africa Military Ombud
ABOUT THE SA MILITARY OMBUD
The concept of the Military Ombud was first contemplated in the late 1990’s as: An independent, external mechanism to deal with the complaints and grievances of members and former members of the SANDF; and A place for the public to lodge complaints about the conduct of soldiers. The White Paper on Defence (May 1996) advocated for the creation of the post of Military Ombud.
As there was no Military Ombud a Senior Legal Administration Officer in the Office of the Public Protector was responsible for dealing with complaints from SANDF members. This proved to be largely ineffective. Minutes of proceedings of the Joint Standing Committee of Defence of June 1998, show a premium was placed on the urgency of establishing such an Office.
In April 2006, a Bill entitled “South African Military Ombud” was tabled and withdrawn. A Military Ombudsman Bill was introduced to the National Assembly in Jan 2011. The Military Ombud Bill as amended and in its present form was introduced in Sept 2011.
To establish an Office of the Military Ombud a project was registered with Defence Intelligence – Project MOLAMODI. A project team was appointed under the direction of Lt Gen (Ret) T. T. Matanzima (project leader) and began work during August 2011.
To render an independent impartial and expeditious investigation and resolution process for complaints in respect of conditions of service for members and former members of the SANDF and to investigate complaints by members of the public regarding the official conduct of a member of the SANDF.
The Office was established with the promulgation of the Military Ombud Act 4 of 2012 and the swearing in of Lt Gen (Ret) T.T. Matanzima.
ROLE OF AN OMBUDSMAN
The role of an ombudsman is to gather facts in order to understand the merits of a complaint and thereafter to consult the relevant parties to the complaint to either settle the complaint or to make a recommendation to resolve the complaint.
The Ombudsman will therefore:
- Establish the allegations and the issues of a complaint;
- Determine the laws applicable to the allegations and the issues;
- Analyse the allegations and issues in accordance with the laws;
- Make findings on the allegations and make recommendations in order to:
- resolve the complaint;
- provide redress where necessary to the complainant; and
- prevent a recurrence of the problem.
An ombudsman’s investigation is not a criminal investigation nor is it meant to be an adversarial process, it is rather an administrative inquiry to ensure due process has been observed.
The Ombud does not represent the complainant, the Department of Defence or any other government authority but rather is an independent, impartial third party that conducts an investigation in a fair and objective manner to ensure an accountable and transparent government.
Mandate of the Office is to investigate complaints lodged in writing by-
- A member regarding his or her conditions of service;
- A former member regarding his or her conditions of service;
- A member of the public regarding the official conduct of a member of the Defence Force; or
- A person acting on behalf of a member.
POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF MILITARY OMBUD
The Ombud may not investigate a complaint unless the Ombud-
- Has in writing informed every other interested party to the complaint of the receipt thereof;
- Is satisfied that all interested parties have been provided with such particulars that will enable the parties to respond to the complaint; and
- Has afforded all interested parties the opportunity to submit a response to the complaint.
- May summon any person to submit an affidavit or affirmed declaration or to appear before him to give evidence or produce any document that has a bearing on the matter before him;
- May resolve any dispute by means of mediation, conciliation or negotiations or in any other expedient manner; and
- Must promote the observance of the fundamental rights of the members of the Defence Force
The Ombud may refuse to investigate a complaint if –
a member has not first used the mechanisms available in terms of the Individual Grievance Regulations.
The complaint relates to problems inherent in the system which results in the grievance not being addressed by the SANDF.
The Military Ombud aims to give members of the SANDF and the public the confidence that it is an independent and impartial “watchdog” that holds the SANDF to account.
Institutional independence is significant to the credibility of the institution as it reflects on the impartiality of the Ombud to investigate complaints without any conflict of interest or any undue influence.
As a result, to ensure its institutional and operational independence, the Office of the Military Ombud is considering registering as a PFMA Schedule 3 Entity.
Within 30 days after the end of each financial year, the Military Ombud is obliged to submit an annual report on the activities of the Office to the Minister, which the Minister will table in Parliament within one month of receipt thereof.
The Military Ombud must also report to the Minister as and when he is required to do so.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
The Military Ombud signed MOU’s with CSANDF and SecDef on 15 July 2014. An MOU with the Public Protector has also been finalised. A date is currently being finalised for the signing of this MOU.
Physical:349 Eco Origins Block C4 Witch-Hazel Ave
Postal:SA Military Ombud
Private Bag X163
Frequently asked questions
What is the Military Ombud doing about the complaints of the SANDF members who went on strike in 2009?
The Office of the Military Ombud has not to date received any complaint directly emanating from the activities of that day and therefore has not had an opportunity to look into the matter.
Why is the Minister of Defence having a final say in the Military Ombud’s’ recommendations?
The Minister is the political head of the DOD and exercises control over its functioning and therefore better placed to direct the command channel to comply with the recommendations of the Military Ombud.
How do you lodge a complaint with the Military Ombud?
Do you accept complaints that did not go through the Individual Grievance System?
Is there any possibility to have Military Ombud offices in other provinces?
What does the MOU’s with the Sec Def and the C SANDF entail?
What should I do if not satisfied with the decision of the Military Ombud?
How effective is the Military Ombud with regard to giving feedback to complainants?
How is the Military Ombud related to other Chapter 9 Institutions as it does not seem that it is a Chapter 9 Institution?
Do you have any means of protecting a complainant against victimization after lodging a complaint?
How long does it take the Military Ombud to finalise a complaint?
Whose interest is the Military Ombud representing as it seems he also reports to the Minister of Defence?
Does the Military Ombud have powers to enforce recommendations?
What is the difference between the Defence Service Commission and the Military Ombud?
What is the procedure to summon a person?
holidays excluded) before the date appointed for the appearance.
Why is it necessary to follow the individual grievance procedure if the Military Ombud can deal with the complaint, as the internal resolution of the complaint might take time due to internal obstruction of the process?
Does the Military Ombud have time frames within which a complaint must be lodged?
A member or their representative must lodge a complaint within a period of 180 days from the date on which the Grievance Board made its decision regarding his or her grievance; a former member within a period of 180 days from the date on which he or she became aware of the issue that gave rise to the complaint.
A member of the public who wishes to complain about the official conduct of a member of the Defence Force, must lodge a complaint within a period of 90 days from the date on which he or she became aware of the act or omission concerned.