The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans has rebuked “misinformed insinuations” by a Democratic Alliance (DA) member of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Following a question and answer session with Cabinet’s Security cluster last week, Isaac Sileku issued a statement taking Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to task for what he claimed was her saying soldier sexual abuse was not brutality. This was in response to a question on whether reported cases of soldier brutality during lockdown were isolated and a follow-up on brutality incident investigations on peacekeeping missions. Mapisa-Nqakula reportedly told the DA public representative reports of brutality were “hardly ever” received and there were “only a few cases of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA),” which Sileku said was alarming and disappointing.
The Minister took strong exception, saying Sileku’s “allusions were ill-informed” and elaborated via a statement issued by the head of communication at the Department of Defence (DoD).
“Cabinet,” according to the statement, “in 2018 expressed satisfaction with interventions made in addressing reported SEA cases against SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members deployed in support of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO).
“In April the same year, the SANDF held a three-day conference dealing specifically with the elimination of SEA from the military with the main aim of expediting efforts to eliminate SEA in the SANDF. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula established a ministerial task team to deal with reported SEA cases in December 2019. The four-person task team is led by Thoko Mpumlwana, who previously chaired the gender commission, with retired Major General Daphne Nodola, Britta Rotmann and Dr Mongezi Guma the other three members.
“The ministerial task team is tasked with investigating, reporting, management and finalisation of SEA related cases reported since 2014 in external and internal deployment areas. A task team priority on inception was to establish a hotline to operate for the duration of the team’s mandate period. The purpose of the hotline is to ensure SANDF members have a platform to report sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse including instances or incidents where cases were reported and there was no follow-up or investigation.
“It is unfounded to say the minister is not concerned about matters related to such serious offences. The DA statement is misleading, misplaced and ill-informed.
“The DoD will sustain all efforts to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation incidents by soldiers deployed internally and on continental peacekeeping and peace support missions. The minister is committed to acting swiftly against perpetrators of SEA related cases and incidents. Ill-discipline and criminal behaviour in the ranks of the SANDF is despised and will not be tolerated,” the statement reads.
In November last year a leaked DoD document stated 41 sexually related cases were reported in the SANDF in the previous 18 months with 26 finalised, 13 guilty verdicts and 11 acquittals.
Parliament last month heard four cases of soldier misconduct involving civilians were reported to the SANDF since the national state of disaster and its lockdown started more than three months ago. The Military Ombud Office said it received 29 “valid complaints” about soldier abuse or misbehaviour since the lockdown started.