Ms Thandi Modise
Minister of Defence
PO Box 47
Cape Town

General Rudzani Maphwanya
Chief of the South African National Defence Force
Private Bag X141

Dear Minister Modise and General Maphwanya

Operation Prosper 12 July to 12 September 2021: serious problems with the call up of Umzimvubu Regiment and alleged non-payment of reservists

1. I was recently approached by some of the commanding officers of the Umzimvubu Regiment reserve force, based at 14 South African Infantry military base at Mthatha, that had been called up during Operation Prosper to restore peace and calm in KwaZulu-Natal once violence and mayhem broke out in the region on 12 July 2021.

2. According to the attached debrief report (Annexure A), the recruit quota was to reach 1,000, if possible, but around 815 (mostly veterans) reported for duty. The officers were, according to the debriefing report, severely challenged in various manners mostly so in logistics and training, and had absolutely no facemasks, weapons, equipment and uniforms for the reservists and veterans who had reported for duty.

3. Apparently, an instruction was issued that they were not to leave the base until the entire eleven-page enrolment paperwork had been completed. Lieutenant Johan Blom has stated that he had financed paper, ink and other supplies to complete this process from his own pocket. (Annexure B)

4. There were allegedly initially no beds or even matrasses for the veterans and reservists to sleep on, nor were there even eating utensils.

5. It was apparently indicated that salaries would be paid in cash, but there were some logistical concerns and payment was postponed and they were told that monies would be paid into the reservists’ and veterans’ bank accounts.

6. Although spirits were initially high, the commanding officers had to deal with the increasingly low morale and high levels of tension that had prevailed.

7. I am told that it took two weeks to organise that they empty the camp, to ensure that the reservists and veterans got to nearby towns homeward bound, which was an expensive endeavour.

8. Senior staff had started to leave and the logistical and some other officers had remained to wrap up the chaotic situation and had been totally exhausted.

9. As I understand it, to this day, some reservists and veterans have only been partially paid and the bulk not at all and a total of almost R24 million is owed to them collectively. (Annexure C)

10. Five reservists and veterans have tragically passed away in the meantime, only one of which I have the details. (Annexure only provided for the recipients of the letter)

11. This situation appears untenable, embarrassing as it has already been exposed, and made a mockery of in The Herald of 22 April 2022. (Annexures E, F and G)

12. I also understand that the Honourable Minister has, through a question in Parliament (Annexure H), been made aware of the matter and that it has been reported to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (Annexure I).

13. Be that as it may, I believe that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Ministry can still salvage the situation, so that these reservists and veterans may be compensated, if it acts quickly and also launches an investigation into how the entire matter was handled within the SANDF.

14. I add the relevant documentation and contacts to this letter for your information and action.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement