The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, Cyril Xaba, has on behalf of the committee, welcomed the announcement of the team that has been appointed by the Minster of Defence and Military Veterans to review the allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
Institutional gender-based violence in the military has been a long-standing issue and continues to be a risk not only to women in the force but to civilians in other countries where members of the force are deployed, Parliament said on 26 November.
“We are deeply concerned by the view that South Africa remains one of the highest-ranking countries in the United Nation’s (UN’s) rate of Troop Contributing Countries conducting sexual abuse mission areas,” said Xaba.
According to reports, Xaba said, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the South African troops are assisting in peacekeeping missions, they have been implicated in numerous cases of rape and sexual assault.
Xaba said: “We welcome the announcement made by Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and support it wholeheartedly the initiative which will be headed by the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality, Ms Thoko Mpumlwana. Efforts to bring an end to violence against women and children have been high on Parliament’s agenda, and military transgressions should not be excused.”
“The committee welcomes this initiative especially as its announcement coincides with the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children campaign,” it said in a statement.
Xaba said: “We call on the Minister and the Department of Defence to continue on this trajectory to eradicate this distasteful behaviour that not only tarnishes the image of the South African Defence Force but continues to pose a threat to both women in the defence force and civilians who expect security and safety from the troops.”
Furthermore, Xaba said: “Last week we received a briefing on the Military Discipline Bill [B 21 – 2019], which seeks amongst other things, to strengthen the military court system to make the dispensation of justice to the accused military personnel much quicker. We hope that this will be used as one of the mechanisms to address these issues in the military and the committee will ensure that the Bill is processed as fast as possible.”