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Mandla Mandela calls on defence minister to stop headscarf 'witch hunt'

'It is inconceivable that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would deny an employee the right to pursue her religious freedom to wear a headscarf.'

Mandla Mandela and his wife Nosekeni Rabia Mandela are seen at the memorial service for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando Stadium. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Chief of the Royal House of Mandela issued a strong statement on Wednesday in support of Muslim South African National Defence Force officer Major Fatima Isaacs.

In the statement, which was posted on Instagram, Mandela asked the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans to intervene in the matter. He also added three images to the post, with two showing military members from other countries in uniform with their headscarf on.

"We call on Minister to stop SANDF headscarf witch hunt immediately!!! Mvezo Komkhulu (The Great Place)... It is inconceivable that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would deny an employee the right to pursue her religious freedom to wear a headscarf," the post read.

Isaacs faces disciplinary action after she refused to remove her hijab (headscarf). Isaacs works as a clinical forensic pathologist at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, and has been charged with willful defiance and disobeying a lawful command.

She appeared before the court of military justice at the Castle of Good Hope on Wednesday where the matter was postponed to August.

Mandela asked people of all faiths to help Isaacs, saying the move by the SANDF was against what South Africa stood for.

"We call on the larger interfaith community to come out in support and demonstrate against this obsternate course of action that not only violates her constitutional rights but insults our longstanding cultural tradition of tolerance, respect and social cohesion," he said. "We call for a picket in the military court at Castle of Good Hope on August 7, at 08:30 where the disciplinary hearing will be held."

Mandela, the eldest grandson of former statesman Nelson Mandela, converted to Islam in 2015 before marrying his current wife, Rabia Clarke, in 2016.

The SANDF's Mafi Mgobozi said on Wednesday the charges were levelled against Isaacs for failing to adhere to their dress code.

Social justice advocate Nazeema Mohammed is Isaacs' adviser and said they’d use all avenues to have the matter dismissed.

“She never had any problems until Colonel Jack Molomo joined. He had been harassing her and demanded that she remove her scarf. When she visited him on work-related matters at the office and after she saluted him, he told her: ‘Remove that thing when I talk to you'.”

Mohammed said things escalated after this.

“That's how it started escalating to the point where he then gave her a final written warning and he has now charged her with disciplinary action.”

She added: “She had to appear in the Military Court [on Tuesday] on a section 29, which is an administrative part of the proceedings. I accompanied her and appeared with her as her adviser. The case will be formally heard on 7 August, where she will be required to defend herself before a judge.”

SANDF has since replied and said the defence force respected religious affiliation. It has also come out in support of Molomo.

“Every person who joins the defence force is not only taught basic training but also about the policies and regulations, including laws governing membership of the SANDF and its code."

The defence force added its membership was made out of various religious groups, who were expected to adhere to the same code.

View this post on Instagram

We call on Minister to stop SANDF headscarf witch hunt immediately!!! Mvezo Komkhulu (The Great Place), Wednesday 26th June 2019: It is inconceivable that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) would deny an employee the right to pursue her religious freedom to wear a headscarf. We call on the Minister to set aside this disciplinary action as it is an absolute denigration of her rights to exercise her religious freedom. We call on the larger interfaith community to come out in support and demonstrate against this obsternate course of action that not only violates her constitutional rights but insults our longstanding cultural tradition of tolerance, respect and social cohesion. We call for a picket in the military court at Castle of Good Hope on August 7, at 08:30 where the disciplinary hearing will be held. ENDS Nkosi Zwelivelile Royal House of Mandela Mvezo Komkhulu P.O. Box 126 Viedgesville 5102 Eastern Cape Province South Africa 🇿🇦

A post shared by Nkosi Zwelivelile 🕋 (@nkosizwelivelile) on

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