DEFENCE Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has revealed a trail of defence force disasters in replying to a parliamentary question about how many boards of inquiry had been held to investigate deaths and accidents.
The boards of inquiry had been instituted in cases such as when a soldier died and the body went undetected‚ paratroopers did not know how to open their reserve parachutes‚ and an insufficiently qualified pilot crashed an aircraft.
Ms Mapisa-Nqakula‚ replying to a question from Democratic Alliance defence spokesman David Maynier‚ said that at Lenz military base the body of a soldier was found many days after his death. "Judgment on the date of the death of Pte Mkwanazi cannot be pronounced. Evidence‚ however‚ indicates that he was dead for quite a while before he was discovered.”
She said no official statement could be made as to whether he died of natural or unnatural causes but that no foul play was suspected. Police are investigating.
The board of inquiry also found that conditions at Lenz were disgusting and that Pte Mkwanazi was left to fend for himself by his unit.
Ms Mapisa-Nqakula said another board of inquiry investigated deaths of recruits at Oudtshoorn infantry school. It found there had been 13 deaths in three years. Three recruits committed suicide‚ one died in a vehicle accident‚ one in his sleep‚ another was shot accidentally and one died of hypothermia during river-crossing training.
The board recommended that inexperienced instructors should not be used and that medical assessments of recruits should be improved.
The minister said another board of inquiry probed the case where a piece of equipment on an aircraft tore the parachutes of paratroopers and two of the jumpers failed to deploy their reserve chutes. It found that paratroopers on their eighth jump should be trained to such a standard that they should be able to identify a torn parachute and deploy their reserve chutes successfully.
In an incident at 41 Squadron‚ an inquiry found that an aircraft had crashed because the officer commanding selected the wrong flaps setting and did not ensure that crews had the required training.
Inquiries into the crash of a Dakota in the Drakensberg and a helicopter in the Kruger National Park have not yet been completed‚ as is the case with a navy submarine crashing into the seabed.
Mr Maynier said: "There are many highly professional members of the defence force. However‚ these documents provide a terrifying insight into the internal decay within the (defence force). We cannot wrap up the defence review soon enough.” © BDlive 2013