The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) reaction to a UN report on the sexual shenanigans of peacekeepers, which alleges South African soldiers are the worst sexual pests deployed continentally, has drawn the by-now almost standard response.
“This particular report has not yet been formally received by the Department of Defence,” Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga said adding it would be “scrutinised” and the authors engaged to “ascertain the authenticity of its content”.
The report compiled by the UN Office of Internal Oversight shows South Africa tops the list of offending nations as far as sexual offences committed by peacekeepers deployed to some of the world body’s largest peacekeeping missions.
The missions are in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan and South Sudan. South Africa has committed troops to the UN missions in the DRC and Sudan. According to the report South African soldiers have nine allegations of sexual abuse against them with Uruguay next on eight and Nigeria third with seven. Details of the allegations are not specified other than to say that some were committed by more than one soldier.
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman pointed out nine “substantive allegations over a six year period during which about 8,400 South African troops were deployed in the DRC works out to a rate of 0,5%.
“Taking that rate across the South African population would result in a figure of 6,250 men facing ‘substantive allegations’ of sexual offences. In fact there were 70,514 cases of sexual assault in South Africa in 2008/9 of which 47,588 were cases of rape and 62,649 and 46,253 cases respectively in 2013/14. Our soldiers in the DRC have been far, far better behaved than our men at home.”
He notes the SANDF has a discipline problem that needs to be addressed but adds the rider “we (South Africa) must not get too carried away in complaining about ourselves”.
Mabanga stressed the SANDF did not condone any misconduct or acts or ill-discipline “be it sexual abuse or exploitation”.
“The SANDF works hand-in-hand with UN officials and other relevant authorities to investigate allegations such as these. In principle and in line with UN guidelines, any SANDF member found guilty of committing an offence will be withdrawn from the mission area and the necessary disciplinary measures will be taken.”