In the short space of two months, officials and officers from Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Department of Defence (DoD) and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) clearly demonstrated where there’s a will there’s a way.
The commitment shown in plans to effectively deal with sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in government defence structures is strong evidence of the Minister’s commitment to eradicating this particular evil in both the uniformed and civilian components she oversees.
South African soldiers and other military personnel came under scrutiny for SEA offences while on continental peacekeeping deployments and the increase in this type of offences at national defence force bases and units was the prompt for Mapisa-Nqakula to set up a task team to investigate. As with much else last year, the team’s efforts were partially derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic with a 124 page report handed to her in mid-March.
Implementation of some recommendations in it is underway, Mapisa-Nqakula told the National Assembly this week when introducing the 2021/22 defence budget.
One is a specialised sexual offence unit in the military police structure. It will investigate offences for prosecution in the military justice system. Co-ordination of SEA complaints will be initially dealt with via a sexual misconduct office and ministerial hotline in the Defence Ministry as part of the DoD misconduct centre.
To accurately keep track of SEA incidents and progress to prosecution or otherwise, the DoD is now home to a central electronic registry to monitor and report monthly on statistics submitted by SANDF services, divisions and units.
Parliamentarians heard the DoD now has an own sexual harassment policy coupled to one for ethics. These instruments make provision for departmental punitive action.
Mapisa-Nqakula’s men and women are now entitled to strict confidentiality when reporting SEA offences training will in future, according to her, “mainstream gender as well as awareness and consequences of sexual misconduct”.