The army is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a military recruit at an Oudtshoorn military base. The body of the soldier was found at his station on Thursday morning. The cause of death appears to be hypothermia. The South African National Defence Force confirmed the death but would not speculate about the cause of death until the investigation is concluded.
On behalf of the South African National Defence Union (SANDU), National Secretary Pikkie Greef said: “According to our investigations, the soldier was a recruit under training and was assigned to do guard duty at the outside field base during (Wednesday) night.” The soldier was last seen alive around 8pm on Wednesday. SANDU is curious to find out if the soldier was adequately dressed for the winter cold. There are also concerns about whether the soldier was equipped with a two-way radio or not. Greef alleged: “The entire tragedy could have been avoided had any of the standard working procedure around guards been observed.”
Four months ago, Independent Online reported that a board of inquiry had been instructed to investigate allegations of the severe punishment of recruits at the Army Infantry School in Oudtshoorn. A training session was stopped by medical officers who were worried about the physical state of some of the recruits. Some of them received medical treatment after that session. One of the soldiers claimed that electronic recording devices such as cellphones were confiscated so that no one could take any visual footage of the brutality. It was implied that the session may have been especially severe on that day because some of the recruits had visited a local pub while wearing uniform.
Greef described the “illegal” treatment that the soldiers received. “They were forced to strip naked in the middle of the night and then they were forced to carry around poles, and if somebody dropped these poles they were beaten with broomsticks.” In another incident, a recruit committed suicide after being humiliated as part of her punishment.
These incidents are still under investigation.