Quite some time ago I did a blog about a general in the South African National Defence Force who was caught cheating during promotion exams. He had copied answers from a fellow candidate.
At the time he had the rank of a general and after being found guilty of cheating he was demoted to the rank of major. This on its own was enough to raise some eyebrows as the expectation in military circles was that Sithabiso Mahlobo should have been cashiered from the army without any benefits.
But after his demotion in 2002, Sithabiso Mahlobo was once again promoted up through the ranks and in 2008 was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Not bad for a cheat!
As Brig-General he was put in command of 46 Brigade who will soon be deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to fight against the infamous M23 rebels. He is responsible for the training of these troops under his command and yet according to military expert, Helmoed-Rӧmer Heitman, no officer that has been found guilty of a crime such as cheating in exams should be allowed to lead or train troops.
I did a quick check on both the American and British armies to see how they would apply military laws. Well, even a rumour of a bit of hanky-panky could be enough to ruin your career. Any sniff of anything irregular or contrary to military law was enough to get you kicked out, without even a pension to help you get through the rest of your life.
So why did Sithabso Mahlobo get to stay on in the army, and how did he move up in the ranks when he, previously all on his own, displayed adequate reason that he wasn’t fit to even lead a platoon on garden duty?
Actually while musing about Mahlobo and his shenanigans I got to thinking about Rear-Admiral Kyanysile Litchfield-Tsabalala who just happened to falsely claim for a stolen government laptop after a conference she was attending in Sandton, and for lodging a false claim for accommodation at a guesthouse, and for assaulting a junior naval staffer who wanted to search her car when leaving a military base.
She was found guilty of 2 criminal charges (see above) for defrauding the State in 2007 in a military court instead of a civilian court. The excuse at the time was that it due to her high rank. Yet even after being found guilty she still remains the Navy’s director of transformation (department set up to move more blacks into the navy according to BEE (Black Equity Empowerment) even though most of them cannot swim.) Even though the Military Court of Appeals confirmed her convictions, she has continued to be paid her monthly lucrative salary.
By all accounts she has some very powerful friends all the way up to the minister of defence and seems to have some hold over them to ensure that she isn’t kicked out in disgrace.
Now taking both stories into consideration it seems that the message that is being sent out to the rest of the defence force is that corrupt behaviour by senior officers is most certainly being rewarded instead of being condemned with all the suitable negative repercussions that should be applied.
I feel sorry for those members who are trying to make a success of the defence force yet are being thwarted by the very people who are supposed to lead them.
tomorrow I need to do some serious musing about kids getting killed because of inadequate training and how the UN has even told us so.