Leading gender equality activist to head up SANDF SEA review


A three person team will review all cases involving allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

The team will be headed by Thoko Mpumlwana, deputy chair of the Commission for Gender Equality and a known activist for the rights of women and children among others.

The Ministerial announcement on Thursday follows her telling national defence force generals and flag officers earlier this month South Africa was ranked among the highest troop contributing countries (TCCs) to UN peacekeeping and peace support missions “faced with paternity claims for making babies in UN deployments”.

Speaking in Thaba Tshwane, she told the cream of senior officers in the SANDF that SEA incidents were not confined to continental deployments.

“I am aware of rampant SEA cases in deployment areas (such as the border protection tasking Operation Corona) as well as in the working environment. I have been mulling over these and decided to institute an investigation, short of a commission, by external role players into this scourge.

“This approach is because I do not have confidence the military and especially generals and flag officers will provide me with satisfactory reports, given you have been aware of these and turned a blind eye.

“Our own Inspector General, Defence Intelligence (Counter Intelligence), Military Police, to mention specific entities, can and should have done more to bring these to the attention of CSANDF (General Solly Shoke) and myself,” she told the communication session.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the team reviewing SEA cases and its terms of reference would be named once terms of reference and “investigation modalities” were finalised. This was apparently pre-empted by the Thursday report in the Mail & Guardian, said to be based on a leaked internal SANDF document.

The names of the other two team members are not given in a Ministerial statement issued after the report was published. The statement also provides no detail about how long the team will work on the SEA case review and when it will start work.

According to the report “at least 41 members of the army were charged with sexual related offences, ranging from rape and assault to harassment and crimen injuria. Of those cases, 26 have been finalised, with 13 guilty verdicts and 11 acquittals”.

The weekly publication has it the largest number of SEA offenders in the national defence force are based in Cape Town with 17 cases reported in two financial years. Thirteen were finalised with “seven officers” found guilty and six acquitted. Pretoria, which includes South Africa’s military capital Thaba Tshwane, had 12 cases with six finalised and “four officers” found guilty.

One online CV of Mpumlwana has it that the former Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of South Africa board member and deputy chair has “an abiding interest in the challenges of gender justice and championing the challenges of poverty and inequality to women in the democratic dispensation”.