What is behind the setting up of the Military Ombuds office?


The ANC-SACP government is adamant that the military unions must be disbanded. Why?


In every capitalist country, the army is the last point of resort of the capitalist class to keep the working class in check. In SA, like any other capitalist country, the wealth is under the control of the capitalist class. The main capitalists in SA are Anglo American, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Liberty, Rembrandt, of which Anglo American is the dominant player and indeed the US bank, JP Morgan Chase is the most important element thereof. The SA government is thus the local manager for imperialist capitalist control in the country. It is their role to ensure that ultimately the army is there to protect JP Morgan Chase and other monopoly capitalists from a mass uprising. Imperialism does not tolerate even the slightest challenge to it because that would mean that when the generals gave the order for the soldiers to shoot on the masses, the soldiers would hesitate, may even refuse to carry out such orders. Such a rift in the army would be fatal to the systematic violence that is inherent to capitalist domination, namely that the masses must at all times be disarmed while a specialist armed force keeps them in enforced slavery for the capitalists.


So why did the capitalist Constitution allow military unions in the first place?

It is because of the revolutionary period of the masses from 1985 1994. It was a trade off the imperialists-capitalists made in order for them to remain in control. In a sense the right of soldiers to be unionised was forced onto the state by the working class, it was not something that the ANC-SACP government granted out of the goodness of their hearts. The right of soldiers to be unionised comes from the fight of the masses that the army should not act for any repressive regime and should be transformed fundamentally from that of the old regime.


The current world period is of capitalist instability. In all countries of the planet, the masses are threatening their capitalist regimes. The masses are rising not only in North Africa and the Middle East but all over- we only have to look at Chile, France, Greece, Bolivia, Spain, etc, even in the imperialist heartland of the USA. The capitalists, ever since April 1994, have been working night and day to undermine the few gains that the working class made up to then. One of these gains is the right of soldiers to be unionised. Recently, because of the greater world capitalist instability, the state has accelerated its attempts to smash the military unions and to rapidly (virtually overnight) they have set up a militarised section of the police. Imperialism is worried that an uprising of the masses may happen here sooner than later and they need to have absolute control over the armed forces. If the working class rises to take real control over Anglo American assets, the capitalists need an army that will defend it absolutely, that will shoot down workers without blinking an eye.


This is why the office of the military Ombud has been set up, to create a channel for soldiers grievances to be addressed individually so that the state can proceed to disband the unions.


The Ombuds office is anti-soldier, anti-democratic


Firstly, an ex-general is the one who is heading this office, which in itself shows that it will be tied hand and foot to the military top command. This is further supported by the terms of reference which states that he may refuse to investigate if it undermines the channel of command..


Through the Ombuds office, the state wants to ban all collective processes of soldiers. For example, the Ombud will also replace the Military Bargaining Council where soldier unions could negotiate and challenge any unfairness over promotions, could negotiate for wage increases and working conditions.


The Ombuds office provides a cover for the state to weed out the more progressive soldiers, those who are more outspoken and willing to challenge unfairness. Soldiers can only lodge grievances as individuals to the Ombud. Thus soldiers can and will be victimized as they will have no forum to share their grievances with one another. No matter that has gone public will be investigated by the Ombud. Thus a veil of secrecy will be drawn over grievances. The soldier will be completely at the mercy of the army top command.


Further any matter that goes to a military judge cannot be dealt with by the Ombud. Thus, for more serious allegations by the top command, the soldier will have no protection at all.


To add insult to injury, the Ombuds office is headed by Lt Gen Matanzima, who was acting chief of the SANDF at the time that the 1000 protesting soldiers were brutalised and suspended. These soldiers are still on special leave despite a court order to reinstate them. These soldiers have not received the same occasional increments of 1% and 2% , nor the bonus allowances of R750 and R1500 in the intervening period.


Further, the Defence Review process is being co-headed by Roelf Meyer, an ex-Minister of Defence from the days of apartheid.


Already the state is accelerating the campaign to frustrate the military unions by pressurizing soldiers to resign from the unions, denying access of the unions to members, by sidelining union members from planning meetings and by excluding them from in-house and external training courses.


Away with the Military Service Commission, the Ombud and the current Defence Review process!


Only the military veterans of the ex-liberation armies, the current defence force unions (SANDU and SASFU), rank and file delegates from the soldiers, delegates from the rank and file from the trade unions and grassroots community organizations should have a say over how a transformed army should look like. The working class should have the right to bear arms against any oppressive regime (something similar is even enshrined in the US bill of rights).




issued by Workers International Vanguard Party (formerly Workers International Vanguard League); 1st Floor, Community House, 41 Salt River rd, Salt River, 7925, ph 021 4476777; ph 0822020617, workersinternational@gmail.com ; website: www.workersinternational.org.za