‘IS military discipline unconstitutional,” THIS was the question posed by Shivute Kaapanda as it appeared in Confidente dated 16- 22 August 2018. The author stated that [sic] “discipline referred to here is understood and practiced as a way of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour using punishment to correct disobedience”.
He gave an example of an office punishing a subordinate who did not salute and other examples to defend his position. Discipline has evolved with human society, wherever you have a group of people whether military or social groups, discipline is needed to keep order. Discipline is a value that entails one to act in an orderly manner and according to principles and obedience to the high authorities and subordination of the will of the individual for the good of the group in order to achieve group objective.
In ancient time, the Roman army had various method of enforcing discipline where less severe punishments included floggings, demotions and putting the man on barley rations were enforced by the centurions. More major offenses such as disobeying orders in battle or falling asleep on duty, the offender could be beaten to death by fellow soldiers whose lives he had endangered and this needed permission of superior officers. This is not applied in most modern militaries like the Namibia Defence Force (NDF). The military organisation is a hierarchical structure with centralised leadership where the lower ranks are subordinated to the upper ones similar to the classic approach of Max Weber’s Bureaucratic Management. In an organisation whose members are most likely to pay their own lives to achieve organisation objective discipline is a must.
In the Namibian Defence Force discipline is not based on fear of punishment or compulsion but on consciousness of one’s military duty and personal responsibility for the defense of the Motherland.
Discipline helps to surmount difficulties in combat situations hence the slogan “more sweat in training less blood in the battlefield.” In the NDF promotion does not only depend on discipline or “saluting seniors” as the author seems to suggest. It includes other factors such as availability of a post and relevant qualification and time in rank just to mention a few.
Discipline implies to understand what the task is and carry it out as commanded. A command to capture and secure an object and another to capture and defend an object are different. If that object is a bridge, destroying it aim to prevent the enemy using it while defending it means to secure it for our own forces. Confusing these instructions might lead to deadly consequences. A disciplinary commander, his troops always understand and carry out tasks as instructed.This example is a clear indication that discipline is broader than the courtesy of saluting and promotion.
In order to maintain discipline among the force, the Military Disciplinary Code as amended by Parliament (Defence Act, 2001) entails acts that constitute offences and remedial actions to be taken. These include amongst others, verbal reprimand, written warning, and suspension. All actions including disciplinary actions in the NDF are subjected to the Constitution which is the supreme law of the country. Anything found to be unconstitutional should be amended.
Discipline in the military like in any other organisations is not only a necessity for esprit de corps and to achieve set objectives, but also to save innocent lives. Only disciplined soldiers are likely to fight according to the Law of War as stipulated by the Geneva Conventions and the Rule of Engagement as issued by the commanders and save innocent lives. As long as the task of soldiers remains to fight wars that put their lives and the population where the war is taking place at risk, discipline remains a must in the military.
Colonel (Rtd) Hafeni Hamunyela
(A former Senior Staff Officer in NDF. Views expressed are my own)
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015