If you give a ‘proxy’ to someone, it means he has your authority to represent you, usually (and especially) in voting at meetings. The word proxy has its origins in the Latin word ‘procurator’ – which is where the Afrikaans word prokureur comes from, and everyone knows that your prokureur is your lawyer, i.e. your legal representative. So a proxy is an agent, actually.
Now the Scandanavian word for a proxy, or an agent, is ‘ombud’. And in those countries – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland – the concept of what we refer to as an ombud has been in place for centuries – we have just been a little bit late in adopting the institution. In general, an ombud (sometimes, ‘ombudsman’) is an independent state official appointed to provide a check on government activity in the interests of the citizen, and to oversee the investigation of complaints of improper government activity against the citizen. So the ombud becomes a representative of the people – much like our Public Protector. There can also be an ombud in public corporations – again, to protect the interests of the public, against the corporation.
There are a number of ombud offices in South Africa – the Tax Ombud, Insurance Ombuds, for Medical Schemes, Retirement Funds, Banking, Motor Vehicles, and a whole lot more.1 There is a military ombud, and that is what the Military Ombud Act 2012 is all about. The mandate of this office is to investigate complaints concerning conditions of service, and conduct of members of the Defence Force.
A. General offence
It is a crime to hinder or obstruct the Military Ombud, or a member of his staff, in the performance of their functions.2
B. Confidentiality of information
All members and employees of the Department of Defence must cooperate with the Ombud in the performance of his functions, and this may include providing access to facilities, information and documents. Any information which is acquired in the process must be kept confidential, and the Ombud (and the relevant staff) commit a crime if they do not do so.3