In what appears to be yet another lengthy legal tussle, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Department of Defence (DoD) are “studying a judgement” which ruled 43 soldiers could not be “administratively dismissed” for offences in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“The Military Command Council,” a DoD statement said, “took a decision to administratively dismiss 43 members of the SANDF who broke curfew and knowingly deserted their posts while operationally deployed in the DRC in 2015.
“The dismissed 43 members subsequently lodged an appeal with the Gauteng Division of the High Court which in turn ruled against the SANDF decision. The SANDF is studying the judgement which will inform the next step to be taken by the SANDF regarding the matter.”
Desertion is a schedule one offence and detrimental to the security of both personnel and equipment and can lead to loss of both in a mission area the statement said adding: “through transgression and misconduct the 43 breached and violated the SANDF Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Act (16 of 1999) and Code of Conduct as well as the United Nations Code of Conduct for Peacekeepers”.
The national defence force condemns ill-discipline and will not tolerate it under any circumstances. “It is expected members of the SANDF will conduct themselves in accordance with all prescripts of the constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the Defence Act.”
In November 2015 it was reported that 47 and not 43 soldiers were dismissed for violating a curfew while deployed in Eastern DRC that September, “compromising the security of other South African troops.” They allegedly visited a local brothel.
The dismissed soldiers were all members of 121 SA Infantry Battalion at Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal.
South African soldiers in the DRC have previously made headlines for sexually exploiting women in the DRC. The SANDF said nine cases of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) were reported against South African soldiers on peacekeeping missions in 2017. This compares to seven SEA cases involving South Africans reported in 2015 and five in 2016. Some of these cases involve paternity disputes.