South African air force officer reprimanded over pink slippers

An officer in the South African air force who went out shopping in her military uniform and a pair of lurid pink slippers, has been officially reprimanded for the fashion crime, a response dismissed as too lenient by politicians who said she should be fired. The incident happened in April when Lieutenant Colonel Ruth Ndayi visited the Brooklyn shopping mall in Pretoria. The picture, taken by a colleague, shows her in the air force's blue-and-white garrison cap and uniform while pushing a plastic trolley among the aisles.

On her feet, pink slippers are clearly visible. Onlookers appear startled by the spectacle. The photo was sent to the air force for comment, causing widespread consternation in military circles. The episode was raised in parliament when David Maynier, the shadow minister of defence, waved a pair of pink slippers to taunt the then defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu – who happened to be dressed in pink.

Sisulu's successor, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, told Maynier in a written answer this week that Ndayi had now been reprimanded. But the shadow minister does not believe this goes far enough. "There should be no place for a military officer who goes shopping on the high street in pink slippers," he said on Friday. "I don't think the punishment fits the crime. She should be fired."

Maynier, an MP for the opposition Democratic Alliance, continued: "It is embarrassing. There are many loyal soldiers in our defence force trying to do a good job in difficult circumstances, but this case symbolises the decline in discipline. All the evidence points to a defence force in deep trouble." Siphiwe Dlamini, spokesman for the defence department, said: "It's a reprimand to not do it again. The rules say you can't wear uniform with other pieces of clothing."