Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula used the annual South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Women’s Day parade to highlight what she called “atrocities committed by our own people”.
She told the parade at AFB Zwartkop sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual harassment are prominent in the national defence force.
“Externally, the national defence force suffered reputational damage as a result of negative reports and in particular by the UN on SEA incidents allegedly committed by deployed SANDF members.”
In South Africa, the Minister said the national defence force made headlines when two MSD (military skills development) soldiers allegedly raped a fellow student on course.
“I emphasise that SEA constitutes serious misconduct. The United Nations expects all peacekeeping personnel will adhere to the highest standards of behaviour and conduct themselves in a professional and disciplined manner at all times. Therefore you will respect local laws, customs and practices; treat host country inhabitants with respect and act with impartiality, integrity and tact.”
South African soldiers serving with the United Nations’ MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were mentioned six times in the latest list of SEA cases released at the beginning of August by the United Nations.
In total the world body released 70 new SEA allegations received between April and June this year. The incidents did not necessarily take place during that timeframe with some going as far back as 2005, according to a UN report.
South Africans were reported for alleged incidents of sexual abuse, exploitation and rape while deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the single largest peace support operation the UN has mounted to date.
“Do not indulge in immoral acts – not with the local population, not with United Nations staff, not with fellow soldiers and not with work colleagues,” the Minister said. “Know the rules – there is no excuse! Live the rules,” Mapisa-Nqakula told the parade, which appears to have become a fixture on the SANDF calendar.
She said disregard for defence policies, instructions and orders showed a lack of discipline and questioned how soldiers could indulge in immoral acts while propagating the values of military professionalism, human dignity, integrity, leadership, loyalty, accountability and patriotism.
“The Department of Defence cannot allow the actions of a few individuals to undo the commitment, sacrifices and hard work of the majority,” she said, stressing the department’s commitment to a zero tolerance approach to ill-discipline, specifically SEA.