Minister Sisulu introduces Ombudsman Bill in Parliament
21 Jun 2011
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, introduced the Military Ombudsman Bill in Parliament today. She addressed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on the need and relevance of an Ombudsman for the South African National Defence (SANDF). The Minister identified the promulgation of the bill as one of her priorities.
The Ombudsman Bill comes shortly on the heels of the establishment of the National Defence Force Service Commission whose aim is to advise the Minister on the conditions of service of the soldiers. The Military Ombudsman will investigate complaints and serves as a neutral third party on matters related to the Department of Defence and the South African National Force, acting independently of the chain of command and managers.
The origin of the Ombudsman is in the White Paper on Defence of 1996 and the Defence Review which motivated for a Military Ombudsperson to investigate complaints, inter alia, of military personnel against the SANDF. It is envisaged that the Ombudsperson will address any military personnel matters which cannot be resolved through other existing mechanisms."
The White Paper further states that "the Department of Defence supports the creation of the Military Ombudsman whose main duties are to monitor adherence to democratic civil-military relations, and undertakes investigations at the request of Parliament and investigates complaints against the SANDF by military personnel and members of the public”.
The office of the Ombudsman will act as a direct source of information, referral and education. It will help members of the Defence community navigate a large and complex organisation in order to access existing channels of assistance or redress when they have a complaint or concern. The ultimate goal is to contribute to substantial and long-lasting improvements to the Defence community.
The Minister referred to a similar institution in Canada where the institution is tasked with the responsibility to review and investigate concerns and complaints from current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces, departmental employees, and their immediate family members who believe that they have been treated improperly of unfairly by the Canadian Department of National Defence Force or Canadian Forces.
The introduction of the Ombudsman alongside the Defence Force Service Commission will go a long way towards promoting democratic civil-military relations in the SANDF. While the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans is still to deliberate on the bill clause by clause, the Committee expressed support for the bill and said it was long overdue.
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Issued by: Department of Defence
21 Jun 2011
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