South African National Defence Force (SANDF) peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have had 93 cases of misconduct brought against them, something defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says is unacceptable.
Four SANDF members convicted of sexual misconduct while serving under the United Nation’s mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) have been dismissed from the SANDF, the Department of Defence said in a statement.
In response to a written Parliamentary Question today, Mapisa-Nqakula said that there are 93 cases involving members of the SANDF serving under the MONUSCO mission in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Other cases where offences were not of a sexual nature but required necessary disciplinary actions be taken against members, the harshest possible sanction has been handed down,” the minister stated.
“The SANDF is supposed to be a ‘disciplined military force’,” stated opposition Democratic Alliance party shadow defence minister David Maynier. “Of the 93 cases, most shockingly, at least 23 involve rape, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and assault of women. These include, for example alleged sexual molestation; rape and murder of a Burundian girl; sexual abuse and exploitation; and sexual abuse and misconduct.
“It is completely unacceptable for the members of the SANDF, who are supposed to be a disciplined military force, to begin to mirror the behaviour of the national defence force and rebel groups, in the DRC.”
Business Day reports that the 93 charges brought against SANDF troops took place between 2003 and 2011 and range from murder to drunkenness, but most were sexual in nature.
“Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has expressed her personal intolerance to ill-discipline in the ranks of the military, particularly as it relates to reported incidences of the abuse of women and children,” the Department of Defence (DoD) said in a statement.
“She has made it clear that conduct unbecoming will be dealt with in the strictest compliance with the law and that there is simply no room for criminality and ill-discipline in a highly professional force like the SANDF.
“The Minister has further welcomed an invitation from the UN Women’s desk to partner the SANDF in the training of peace-keeping troops with an emphasis on the Response to Conflict Related Sexual Violence prior to deployment in conflict regions.”
The SANDF and UN Women have conducted training with deployed peacekeeping forces since September 2012 and continue with the training programme at the SANDF’s Peace Mission Training College in Pretoria.
In her report on SANDF misconduct during UN peacekeeping missions, Mapisa-Nqakula indicated that no members of the South African contingent within the UNAMID mission in Sudan were being investigated or charged for misconduct.
South Africa has peacekeeping troops deployed in Darfur, Sudan, and the DRC. An SANDF contingent will be part of the UN Intervention Brigade in the DRC, which for the first time in UN peacekeeping history, has an offensive mandate to actively stop the M23 rebel group. The Brigade has already started patrolling the DRC and will expand to at least 2 500 troops from South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.