The world was this week reminded that South Africa has an uncompromising and strict policy against its citizens who are involved in mercenary activities.
The warning came from Ambassador Jerry Matjila, South Africa’s permanent representative at the United Nations. He was speaking during a Security Council debate on mercenary activities as a source of destabilisation in Africa.
South Africa, Matjila said, has been part of collective efforts to promote peace and stability across Africa since “the advent of democracy in 1994”.
“As a responsible member of the African Union and the United Nations, South Africa condemns all mercenary activities in any African or non-African country. We believe these activities are in clear contravention of continental and international conventions and legal instruments.”
He told the Security Council the South African Constitution precludes any South African citizen from participating in armed conflict, nationally or internationally “except as provided for in the Constitution or national legislation”.
This saw the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act passed by Parliament in 1998 and further updated to “address this scourge”.
“South Africa has consistently taken strict measures against its nationals found to be involved in mercenary activities or violating the Foreign Military Assistance Act. We have co-operated and collaborated with fellow African countries in instances where our nationals were implicated in mercenary activities,” he said.
Matjila appealed to the international community to create a regulatory framework for what has become known as private military companies in view of the negative consequences their activities have in some of Africa’s “protracted conflicts”.
“The South African delegation is convinced “the perception around the privatisation and corporatisation of security services should be addressed as this should be the sole responsibility of sovereign governments,” he said.
Speaking in the same debate, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said mercenary activities had evolved over the years.
“Today they are exploiting and feeding off other ills such as transnational organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism,” he said, adding mercenary activities in Africa “need work across the spectrum from prevention to prosecution and mitigating the impact of mercenary activities to addressing the root causes giving rise to them”.