Response to Martin Williams Trash Talking Our Troops.

2014-05-05 16:52

I recently spotted this:

"Amid the cloud of bulldust around the elections, we are being set up for another arms deal. Hold on to your wallets.”

This article was written by Martin Williams, an editor at The Citizen, a tabloid-style newspaper. Mr Williams seems to me to bet he epitome of a lazy journalist.

“Who, for example is proud that our soldiers left Lesotho with their tails between their legs after an abortive invasion 1998? “

Abortive invasion? Really? This operation was called Operation Boleas. 700 Troops were deployed as part of a SADC intervention to stop certain members of the Lesotho Defence Force from staging a military coup. The troops were deployed from  Sep 1998 to May1999, a period of 7 months. SADC was directly approached by the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili, for their immediate intervention. The intervention was given the green light by SADC seeing that attempts at a peacefully resolution of the dispute, regarding the elections in Lesotho, had failed. Also, South Africa had intervened to protect certain South African interests, such as the Katse Dam (Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme). When the withdrawal of the SADC forces (SANDF and the Botswana Defence Force) was announced, Prime Minister Mossisili announced that Operation Boleas had been a success, because it had allowed Lesotho's Parliament to continue its work and the administration of the country continued to function. Soldiers from Lesotho, who took part in the mutiny, were arrested.

Hardly an abortive invasion! They occupied the area for all of seven months! On 22 September 1998 there was intense fighting to secure the Katse Dam. South African troops fought and took this dam and held it, ensuring that the water supply to South Africa was not interrupted.

If by abortive you mean casualties? You, MrWilliams, should, or ought to anyway, know that soldiers are fully aware of what they sign up for. “Soldier” in ordinary circumstances doesn’t mean “picker of flowers”.  Soldiers go to war.  Soldiers die fighting wars.

“And what about the fiasco which saw at least 13 SANDF members killed by rebels in the Central African Republic last year?”

Fiasco? The only fiasco is that our soldiers weren’t provided with the correct logistical support. As I said before, soldiers get injured. Soldiers die in times of war. But, as far as I'm concerned, 250 troops up against 3000 Seleka rebel fighters (some of whom had been at war since they were children), and we had lost only 15 (yup 15 actually died as a result) men, is actually not bad. Again, Mr Williams obviously doesn’t understand the concept of war. These 15 soldiers, who were KIA, died fighting, and I and many others in South Africa, are very proud of every single troop that was in the CAR. It is a tragedy that lives lost were, but they died fighting. That’s the ultimate devotion.

“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the SANDF speciality is rape. Last year DA MP David Maynier disclosed that 93 cases of misconduct had been brought against SANDF members in the DRC. At least 23 involved rape, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and assault of women.”

Firstly the over dramatic MP, David Maynier, is well known to have a problem with numbers, so much so that the Hon. Lindiwe Sisulu once gave him a calculator as a gift.

And, it seems to me Mr Williams had not seen the figures involving incidents in the DRC, so allow me to educate him.

The following is a media statement by the South African National Defence Union, on the matter:

“SANDU has taken note of the report, revealed in Parliament, on the SANDF misconduct statistics.

Of greater concern are the attempts by certain parties, in particular the Democratic Alliance, to distort the information provided.

The DA has made a huge fuss of the fact that 93 cases of misconduct had been brought against SANDF members of which 23 involved in alleged sexual offences. However, more telling are the facts that the DA failed to reveal to the public.

Only 15 soldiers were convicted of any misconduct out of the 93 cases. Furthermore, the statistics relate to an 8 year period of deployment in which 25.000 SANDF soldiers were deployed. This in effect means that only 0.06% of all SA soldiers deployed were convicted of misconduct. This constitutes, on average, fewer than 2 soldiers on deployment per annum. This is an excellent military discipline record, measured by the standards of any military force including those of super powers like the United States.

The DA, in its attempt to portray this report as evidence of massive ill discipline amongst deployed troops, have scored somewhat of an own goal. The DA should be ashamed of itself for involving the names of innocent soldiers in its attempts. The DA should refrain from distorting the disciplinary infringement rate as a means to political gain.

The Ministry of Defence should also get its facts straight. The member named in the report, Lt Col van Breda, as having been convicted of sexual offences, was in fact acquitted on appeal. The Department of Defence should not be surprised should this individual decide to sue the Minister for defamation.”

So again, misrepresentation of facts by MrWilliams.

“Money is not the core problem here. Without discipline and a rigorous commitment to improve skill levels, no amount of money will give us an effective SANDF.”

Money is a HUGE problem in defence, most countries spend 2.2% of GDP on defence, we spend around 1%.

Discipline? Mr Williams is the last one to talk about discipline. His fact checking, or rather lack thereof, is that of a journalist without any discipline. I work with soldiers every day and I can assure you that our soldiers are very disciplined. So, Mr Williams, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

“This bunch can’t even use half the toys bought in the 1999 arms deal. And now they want more.”

Again, what utter nonsense! I was married to a Naval combat officer, who qualified on the frigates and submarines, and their crews were very competent.

Mr Williams, may I suggest that you should stick to tabloid styled writings that don’t include SANDF related matter?  Next time, do some research before you write. The SANDF is 79 000 strong, and all of those, who complained to me about your half-baked article, were highly insulted and extremely angry.

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