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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 21:54 GMT
South Africa's 'army of thieves'
South African soldiers
Thousands of criminal and disciplinary incidents were recorded

The South African Minister of Defence has said that a total of 947 incidents of theft of state property by soldiers were recorded last year.

Mosiuoa Lekota made the disclosure in a written reply to parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday.

He said soldiers also stole from private individuals, adding another 406 incidents to their record.

The total value of the goods stolen amounted to $1,184.

But stealing was not the only crime committed by members of the country's defence force.

Hundreds of them have been tried by senior military judges for fraud, assault and intimidation.

Criminal Record
2,299 criminal cases
2,829 disciplinary cases
According to the South African Press Association (Sapa), disciplinary cases dealt with ranged from threatening behaviour, insubordination, using insulting language on a superior officer, disobeying lawful commands and absence without leave.

This is not the first time the country's national defence force has been found wanting.

Financial strain

Last year newspaper reports cited a briefing given to MPs by senior soldiers that more than half of the country's soldiers were unfit and that morale was at rock bottom.

The reports said the national force was not equal to its task.

But Mr Lekota at that time dismissed with contempt the accusations and insisted the soldiers did match up to what was required of them.

The newspapers had also reported that up to 60% of South Africa's soldiers may be HIV positive.

But the defence minister said new and comprehensive figures at his disposal showed that a maximum of 23% were infected with the virus, and that reports of an army ravaged by Aids were grossly exaggerated.

He did admit then that the forces were under financial strain.

South Africa's army 'unfit'
16 Jul 02 |  Africa
Country profile: South Africa
28 Nov 02 |  Country profiles

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