Military Ombud 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan; with Ministry


04 May 2023
Chairperson: Mr V Xaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee was joined by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the Military Ombud of South Africa, who briefed the Committee on the Ombud’s Annual Performance Plan. The Committee was also joined by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Thandi Modise.

The presentation focused on the Military Ombud’s mandate and its strategic focus for the current financial year. It provided a situational analysis of the organisational environment of the office. It reported that there had been progress in the political, economic, social, legal, human resources, financial and governance environments. Risks they faced included a lack of institutional independence, a shortfall in the budget for compensation of employees, and a slow turnaround in the finalisation of investigations.

Members questioned the value of the Military Ombud, considering court rulings that its decisions were mere recommendations to the Minister and were not binding. Members also showed concern about the visibility of the Ombud, the backlog and turnaround time of cases and the Ombud’s relationship with the Minister and the Department.

Questions were raised about a process to review legislation to allow the Department and the Ombud to operate more effectively.

Members were assured that the Ombud’s office would do more to create wider awareness of its role and that it and the Department would do their best to ensure that there was no backlog in cases.

Meeting report

The Chairperson acknowledged apologies from Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla, the Military Ombud, Lt Gen (Ret), Vusumuzi Masondo, Mr T Mafanya (EFF), Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape), Ms N Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga), and Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo). The Chairperson handed the platform over to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Thandi Modise. She asked the Deputy Military Ombud, Adv STB Damane-Mkosana, to brief the Committee.

Military Ombud 2023/24 Annual Performance Plan

The Deputy Ombud reported that the Military Ombud Act had not been reviewed since it was promulgated. The office started the legislative process for the amendment of the Act during the year 2021/22. The authority to review the Act was obtained from the Minister of Defence and military veterans in 2020. Further consultations to review the Act were taking place with the current Minister.

A feasibility study and business process mapping out the most appropriate institutional model for the institution were done. The outcome of the process would determine the institutional independence model, which would impact the Amendment Bill. The Ombud’s office was awaiting an opportunity to make a presentation on institutional independence and the legislative review process to the Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

The Deputy Ombud presented a situational analysis covering the political, economic, social, legal, human resources, financial, ethics and integrity, governance, risk and compliance environments.

Concerning human resources, the office employed interns from the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA). An area of concern was the historic underfunding for compensation of employees. The office was functioning on a minimal strength of 63 posts as against the 89 approved posts. The 63 posts were not fully funded.


In the financial area, the office did its best to ensure that legitimate invoices were paid within 30 days.

With regard to cybersecurity, the office would implement robust network security architecture. This would include appropriate segregation and segmentation between the information technology and control system networks, using firewalls and intrusion prevention detection tools. The office would further perform network security monitoring tasks to enable identification of abnormalities on the network.

The office supported the ministerial priorities for the 2020 – 2025 planning period. It had aligned itself to the results-based model guided by the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation.

The risks facing the office included a lack of institutional independence; a shortfall in the budget for compensation of employees (CoE); and a slow turnaround in the finalisation of investigations due to slow response by military services and divisions.

Since 2019/2020, 156 reports have been submitted to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans (MODMV). Of these, 103 complaints were upheld. The remaining reports were resolved through alternative dispute resolution.

A liaison forum between the Military Ombud and the Chief of the SANDF had been created by means of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between these two parties and the Secretary of Defence.

The Committee’s attention was drawn to court cases which appeared to highlight the stance of the Minister and the Chief of the SANDF on reports submitted to the Minister. The cases were Lembede v MODMV and others; Davids v MODMV and others; and Miles v MODMV and others.

Findings in these cases were that the recommendations made by the Military Ombud were not a directive and were not binding. An obiter comment was made that if the Minister was obliged to implement the recommendations, then the Ombud would constitute an alternative chain of command in respect to matters within the jurisdiction of the Ombud. There was an argument that the military could not have more than one chain of command from the President as the commander-in-chief.

See attached for full presentation


The Chairperson said that he understood that the court rulings were that the decisions of the Ombud were mere recommendations to the Minister. Would he be correct in stating that the Minister was duty-bound to either accept or reject these recommendations? Stating that the recommendations could simply be ignored questioned why money was still being spent on the Military Ombud if it was not being taken seriously and was a toy telephone. Why should aggrieved soldiers come to the Military Ombud when it was of no value? What was the Ombud’s view on what he was saying now? Why was the Military Ombud created? He was of the view that it was critical that a body like the Military Ombud be kept. Its removal would significantly impact the morale of the military force.


People came to the Committee complaining that the Ombud’s recommendations had not been implemented. The Committee then sent the complaints back to the Ombud and the Ombud sent them back to the Committee. What did the Ombud advise regarding this situation? It led to people thinking that the Committee was also not adding value to this process. How many cases had been reported to the Public Protector due to non-action?


Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) stated that given the mandate of the Committee, the role of the Ombud was incredibly important to it. The Committee should be hearing good information from them. He found the presentation from the Ombud underwhelming and lacking in information. He compared the current presentation to a previous Committee meeting report on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s website where he was able to get an idea of how many cases had been submitted, how many had been processed in time, how many were outstanding, etc. None of that information appeared in this presentation.

The Ombud’s office was essentially reporting that they had 59 staff members. They reported 63 the previous year, and yet they were reporting that they were overpaying their staff members because they were overspending on staff costs. The Ombud indicated that this might be someone else’s problem instead of their own. The Ombud had four fewer staff members than it had the previous year and yet was reporting R8 million over expenditure on staff costs. This showed a disconnect. If the Ombud was overspending on its budget, this must then be supported by an audit finding.

The presentation in the previous year showed that there was a turnaround at the Ombud’s office and that customer service was getting better. How was the relationship between the Ombud and the new Minister from the Ombud’s view and from the Minister’s point of view?

Slide 14 of the presentation spoke of a stakeholder perception survey. A survey was not needed. The Ombud just needed to look at the number of cases reported to them. The number of cases was decreasing and this was indicative of the confidence levels in the Ombudsman. A number of people from the defence force had contacted him personally to raise concerns that they were facing. He always referred these complainants to the Military Ombud. Two of the complainants did not know of the existence of an ombud and that was a problem. Some complainants had problems with having to fill out forms that were inappropriate for their complaints and they gave up. He was concerned that the Military Ombud was not achieving what it ought to achieve.

Mr M Shelembe (DA) stated that what had been presented indicated that there would be challenges in the years to come because the institution was not independent and depended on the decision of the Minister. It created a problem between the Minister and the Ombud because the Minister looked like a judge who had the final decision on a matter. The complainants would see decisions as being political. Looking at the slow turnaround in finalising investigations, was the MOU still active? If it was still active, who was involved? How far was the process to amend the Military Ombud Act?

Mr T Mmutle (ANC) said the presentation indicated that matters were piling up and there was no quick resolution. Could the Minister shed light on what measures would be put in place to deal with long outstanding files submitted to her office? Secondly, had the Military Ombud thought of a possible solution for these matters, considering that their recommendations were not binding? He foresaw a situation where they would be rendered useless in the near future.

Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) stated that since 2016 military veterans have submitted cases to the Military Ombud asking for military pensions and special pensions. The complainants were yet to benefit. Why was the Ombud failing to attend to the seriousness of the military veterans’ cases? Many of the complainants were sick and in need of resources. The very same military veterans went to the Minister’s office when they had problems and were simply told that they were kidnapping the Minister with whom they wanted to raise their concerns. Some individuals should not have been promoted in the SANDF. Why was this happening and why was action not taken? The Special Pension Fund was closed. Who closed it? Cases were not being attended to. What was wrong with this Ombud?

Minister’s responses

On the relationship between the ministry and the Ombud, the Minister said she was unsure how to put it. They had met twice - about the performance assessment and also about the annual report. There was a complaint about turnaround times. Reports were sent and the ministry took a long time. She was not too sure about the necessity of the MOU with the Secretary for Defense and the Chief of the SANDF. If she did not agree with a report, she would be duty-bound to return it to the Ombud for an explanation or to dispute the recommendation. It had taken her time to reach out and try to get information on the reports. It was fair for them to obtain information on the recommendations, especially if the implications were going to be people losing their jobs. She still wanted to understand why MOUs were necessary, because as far as she was concerned, once there were instructions to act, the necessity of the MOU fell away.

On whether she would consider amendments to the Act, she said serious legal advice was required for the simple reason that there would be too many lines of command if there was going to be an accounting officer, the Chief of the SANDF, the Military Ombudsman and the Commander in Chief. Recommendations by the Ombud should be considered properly. When members of the defence force went to the Ombud, they had usually exhausted the internal mechanisms within the defence force. She was expecting one person to go to the Ombud because of a complaint she received a few weeks into her time in office. The complaint was from a female who was being overlooked for promotion. She would expect this matter to end up with the Ombud. There would be cases where she would request an investigation even before the case went to the Ombud.

She said there had to be one dispensation and one line of respect on the issue of political considerations influencing decisions. Race, gender, and politics should play no role in how members were ranked and considered in any matter, whether it was a complaint or not. She gave her word on that.

Concerning military veterans, she said that the Military Veterans Act was being amended. One of the changes would be to include dependents and spouses in health-related matters. The Department should not promise what it could not deliver on. It wanted to ensure that everybody who qualified for benefits was not scared of going through the verification process. The Department wanted to ensure that anyone who failed the means test should not expect to get paid. The Department was also aware that there were many frauds in the system and former non-statutory force members with criminal records. The Department had referred that matter to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the President.

The Department understood when military veterans were distraught. Some members of the Department had been held in a venue. That was illegal and not opening cases against the people who did that did not make it right. The Department was trying to be as quick as possible in ensuring that those who deserved benefits received them. The Department has also been upfront about not double dipping. A person could not sit in Parliament and expect free housing when their earnings did not meet the means test.

She would consider amendments and she would give her support to the Military Ombud. She would look into some of the matters raised by Mr Ryder.

On how the Military Ombud could play a bigger role and be better known, she replied that there were no inhibitions from the Department’s side. Nothing stopped the military Ombud from educating troops on its role. Frequent meetings were needed. Meeting to discuss cases would help to speed up the workload. Both the Department and the Military Ombud should do their best. The Department would do its best to ensure that there was no backlog and that they were informed about every case that came before them.

She was aware that people went to the public protector when the Department failed to implement the Ombud’s recommendations. Every South African had the right to complain to the Public Protector. The Department would definitely not take issue with that.

She agreed with Mr Ryder’s point about the budget.

Responses by the Deputy Ombud

The Deputy Ombud said she did not have the number of cases reported to the public protector because of the Ombud’s perceived inaction, but there were not many. It was a developing trend.

On Mr Ryder’s statements that the Ombud appeared to be under-reporting compared to the previous year's report, she said what was being presented was a plan for the 2023 financial year and not an annual report. Should the Ombud present the annual report for the previous financial year, it would be clear that the Department was maintaining the momentum in improving the turnaround times.

On the perceived overpayment of staff members, she replied that public service members had always been paid equally. It was just that from the onset, the allocation in the budget for the compensation of employees was not sufficient to cover the posts in the office. That was why the Ombud incurred over-expenditure every year on compensation of employees. There was no overpayment. What also affected the amount was that the same budget was used to cover things like exit gratuities.

On the cases of the military veterans, she replied that the mandate of the Military Ombud was to investigate matters regarding the conditions of service for current and former members of the defence force. The Ombud did not have jurisdiction over military veterans in terms of legislation. Therefore, they did not entertain matters regarding military veterans.

The Chairperson asked whether the Ombud would entertain complaints by military veterans if they came as ex-soldiers complaining that they have been denied their pension.

The Deputy Ombud replied that the Act referred to the conditions of service of former members. That was as far as the Ombud could go.

The Chairperson asked whether the Ombud did not regard a pension as forming part of the conditions of service, seeing that it was a matter that arose when a soldier had exited the system.

The Deputy Ombud replied that the Ombud followed the strict provisions of the enabling Act and the Act did not cover the benefits of military veterans

The Chairperson stated that he did not understand why the Ombud said the presentation was not a report. Why did the Ombud say that some of the statistics that they had reported were not a true reflection of their performance?

The Deputy Ombud replied that the whole picture would be clear when they returned to present their annual report because they would be dealing with details.

The Chairperson stated that he would give the Ombud the benefit of the doubt.

The Deputy Ombud addressed the statement that some members were not aware of the existence of the office. She said they had a communication strategy and undertook massive outreach. They were visible everywhere and they had a social media presence.

Mr Ryder said he found the Deputy Ombud’s response to be arrogant in content and tone. The last presentation by the Ombud was given to the Committee on 02 June and there was no waiting for the produced version of the annual report. The fact that the report was already with Parliament showed that the Committee could have had those figures for the current hearing. He did not understand why the Ombud presented half-baked figures. The presentation was weak and did not help the Committee to do its job. If the Ombud stated that their overspending was not due to a problem with their structure, then the problem lay within their budgeting. That was the issue.

The Chairperson replied to Mr Ryder that the Committee was not currently looking at the annual report but the annual performance plan looking forward. The issues Mr Ryder was raising would be more relevant when the Committee dealt with the other report. They should plan to bring the annual report before the Committee so that they could then deal with those issues in a much sharper way.

The Minister stated that Members of Parliament had the right to put any question to the Department. If the Department was not ready with a response, they should indicate they were not. The truth was that she did have issues with the budget - issues of compensation, issues with professionalism and also marrying the programmes with the policies that had been adopted. The Department’s hearts were with the soldiers on the ground. The Department would do its best to look at what Mr Ryder had put on the table. Surely there should not be over expenditure when an employee resigns at the end of a month.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would schedule a meeting with the Minister in the next quarter. He requested that all the issues that Members were concerned about be adequately addressed by the time they met.

The meeting was adjourned.


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