SA military court sitting in the DRC


South African military justice is in theatre this week to try 32 soldiers accused of misconduct by MONUSCO, the UN mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A statement issued by the mission, the largest of its kind operated by the United Nations and currently under the command of Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, former SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division head, said the cases to be heard this week in the DRC did not involve sexual abuse. This comes in the wake of 99 allegations of sexual abuse attributed to UN peacekeepers last year. While not confirmed by the SANDF, this week’s hearing are believed to be in connection with charges of AWOL (absent without official leave).

This is not the first time the South African military legal apparatus has been deployed continentally with judges, prosecutors and legal clerks working from mobile courts based where needed.

The SANDF has previously used mobile courts to try South African soldiers of offences committed in Burundi, South Sudan and the DRC.

SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said the force was “clamping down on ill-discipline, no matter at what level and where”.

The MONUSCO statement said: “Holding the trial in the DRC is more practical less costly and more attentive to the circumstances of victims who are not able to travel. Mobile courts are an important tool in the fight against impunity”.

The DRC mission is the UN – and the world’s – largest with about 20 000 uniformed personnel of which South Africa currently contributes around a thousand soldiers and experts in various musterings.