Lohatlha: Row brews over report

2008-01-17 17:32

Pretoria - A row is brewing over a report on the military investigation into an incident last year in which nine soldiers were killed at Lohatlha in the Northern Cape when an artillery gun apparently went haywire.

The report - compiled by a board of inquiry which investigated the incident in which a computerised gun malfunctioned during a military exercise killing the nine soldiers and injuring 14 others - has been completed but not made public.

On Thursday the Freedom Front Plus said Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, gave an undertaking in Parliament that the investigation would be transparent and that nothing would be hidden.

"Lekota cannot now decide not to release the report. Releasing the report is necessary in order for Parliaments' oversight role to be exercised.

"The public, furthermore, has a right to know what went wrong and what preventative steps will be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again," said FF Plus spokesperson Pieter Groenewald.

The report had been discussed with the families of dead and injured soldiers on Saturday, Lekota's spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said on Thursday.

Following these discussions the minister was waiting for an opening in his schedule to publicly talk about the outcome of the investigation. This would happen soon, Mkhwanazi said.

'No negligence'

He said it was unlikely that the whole report would be released and could not say whether the findings would be made public.

It is believed that the military inquiry came to the same conclusion as that of a police investigation into the matter - finding that the computerised gun had malfunctioned and that there had been no negligence.

Groenewald, however, said it was crucial that the whole report be released so that people could see how the inquiry came to its conclusion and if its deductions were correct.

"The current action of the minister creates the impression that he has something to hide. If it is possible for civil action to be instituted, there must have been negligence," he said.

His party plans to submit a question to Lekota through Parliament.

- SAPA

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