Medals scandal part of ‘dirty tricks’

2012-10-09 00:00

THE controversy surrounding the new commander of the Durban Light Infantry (DLI) for wearing a dead soldier’s medals at a parade took yet another strange twist when he claimed the whole thing was part of ongoing dirty tricks by his colleagues.

Sibusiso Amos Mbuyazi said his colleagues began a campaign to discredit him after he had ordered the removal of a picture of the Queen of England from the DLI headquarters.

“It was when I ordered a picture of the Queen of England at the DLI to be removed that all this trouble started. Why should I stand and salute the queen [of another country]?” he asked.

The 42-year-old lieutenant-colonel wore the unit’s late chaplain’s Southern Cross, Pro Patria and John Chard Decoration medals when he received his rank at an official parade in Pretoria.

It is alleged that the medals, donated for safekeeping by the family of the late chaplain Patrick Montgomery, were stolen from a display cabinet in May and disappeared a second time after Mbuyazi wore them in August.

He said that on the day of the parade, he had seen a senior officer fiddling with his tunic.

“I was in a rush and had left my tunic in the officers’ mess. I saw this man tampering with it when I returned to fetch it,” he said.

He apparently was too excited to notice the three additional medals.

His colleagues, who leaked the story on condition of anonymity, claimed that when quizzed about the medals, Mbuyazi allegedly said he borrowed them from a friend.

He, however, denied ever saying this to any of his colleagues.

“I did not say that. People are telling lies. I even had my own medals that also went missing.”

The theft charges against him have since been dropped by the police due to insufficient evidence. He is said to still be facing charges from the military police.

He said that his deployment to command the DLI was not well received by his new colleagues, who allegedly began plotting to tarnish his reputation. “I was placed at the DLI by my seniors. When rumour spread that I was taking over, some people there started submitting false grievances and accusing me of being a racist.”

A petition posted on calls for “the jailing of the unbecoming officer”.

“We … wish the state president of South Africa, to take action in this matter that has brought the whole of the SANDF into disrepute.

“We demand that Lieutenant-Colonel Mbuyazi have his rank removed on a public parade and then marched into the hands of the SA Police Service,” it reads.

The petition also calls for an investigation into the incident in an effort to show that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is above reproach and that “we do not tolerate corrupt criminals serving in our defence force”.

“Our orders and medals are earned, they are not used, stolen or borrowed.”

Another DLI member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the incident as laughable.

“You dress yourself when you get ready for parade, and you know the difference between four and seven medals. Who are we trying to kid.”

In a statement issued last week, SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Xolani Mbanga said that any act of ill discipline would not be tolerated and that Mbuyazi had been notified of the charges levelled against him.

Mbanga was not available to comment on the new allegations put forward by Mbuyazi.

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