Calls for probe into video showing soldiers burning bodies in Mozambique
The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) says it will never tolerate blatant criminality after a video appearing to depict members of the SANDF and members of other unidentified defence forces burning dead corpses.
The 20-second long clip shows soldiers grabbing a dead man by his arms and legs and tossing him onto a burning fire where another body is already ablaze.
Other armed soldiers watched as this took place, while another is seen recording the incident on his phone.
“The desecration and mistreatment of corpses is strictly prohibited and is a serious violation of international law of armed conflict, to which South Africa is a signatory,” Sandu said.
The SANDF said the incident, which it described as despicable, is believed to have taken place during November last year in Mozambique, where South Africa has committed forces as part of the Sadc mission in Mozambique (Samim).
Sandu said if the video on social media is authentic and shows, among others, SANDF members engaging in such activities, it would constitute a grave and disgraceful breach of international law of armed conflict and would be completely unacceptable.
“Sandu strongly condemns these actions, as they are completely inconsistent with the values and principles of the SANDF and Sandu, as well as international law of armed conflict,” said Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of Sandu.
It said it was imperative that the SANDF investigated this incident expediently, that those responsible were held accountable for their actions and that the investigation is conducted in a fair and impartial manner.
Sandu said all SANDF members were obligated to comply with international law of armed conflict and any violation thereof was intolerable.
“Sandu will always stand for the protection and promotion of the rights of our members, but will never tolerate such blatant criminality, which brings dishonour and disgrace to the SANDF, the uniform and South Africa,” Greeff said.
AfriForum has demanded that this matter be handled urgently.
“It is shocking to see the defence force of a democratic country such as South Africa participating in such heinous acts.
“We strongly request that you immediately recall the commander of the South African forces in Mozambique to testify as to the details surrounding this particular event,” AfriForum’s head of policy and action, Ernst Roets said in a letter addressed to defence and military veterans minister Thandi Modise.
Roets said the SANDF has been accused of human rights violations numerous times before, including during operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in the country during the Covid-19 lockdown where innocent civilians were beaten in the streets.
“This kind of behaviour seems to be becoming a habit among some soldiers, and this is unacceptable,” Roets wrote.
The DA said the video footage was unacceptable and must be rejected in the strongest possible way. It said there were international standards and regulations for dealing with dead bodies in a dignified and human way, even in a conflict zone.
“Soldiers must adhere to their code of conduct and international standards and practice,” DA MP Kobus Marais said.
Marais said Modise and the chief of the SANDF should immediately institute a board of inquiry.
“Meanwhile, the soldiers involved, and their commanding officers should be recalled to SA and must be suspended to allow for unrestricted investigation into this matter,” Marais said.
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman said there has to be a disciplinary inquiry if the SANDF members were involved in the burning of the bodies. However, he said he was unsure what action could be taken against SANDF members if they did not participate but filmed the incident for record-keeping purposes.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.