On 8 March, International Women’s Day, the Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) Ministerial Task Team (MTT) presented its report on sexual misconduct cases within the Department of Defence (DoD).
The report outlined key findings and recommendations. Most notably, the report found sexual misconduct to thrive under a culture that does not address it correctly and recommended a hard and decisive line be taken, particularly by leadership, against sexual perpetrators.
The findings were presented by the MTT’s chairperson, Nandisile Thoko Mpumlwana, who said the byline of the MTTs report is, “A defence force that cares.”
The report’s findings noted that punishments for sexual misconduct cases did not fit the crime. Mpumlwana said that a recent military bill pertaining to prison sentences for sexual misconduct has been put forth to parliament, however more can be done as she said, “Just to give an example, for misconduct, generically, R5 000 is the maximum [fine] for misconduct because everything is generically put under misconduct.”
Mpumlwana revealed that the report also found the DoD to have an “organisational culture that must be transformed”. It is a culture that favors silence over reporting sexual misconduct cases and one that ignites fear of reporting those who have violated others. More support for women who report sexual misconduct cases was another key finding. The South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF’s) handling of SEA cases, the report notes, is a perpetrator-centric one. Mpumlwana and her team believe more focus should be placed on helping the victim.
“We have worked very well with leadership but if this [sexual misconduct] is to change, everyone must hear now, that there is a red line drawn. No more sexual misconduct and sexual predation in the Department of Defence and Military Veterans,” said Mpumlwana on the MTT’s recommendations.
The report also recommended past violations should not be swept under the carpet and should be fully acknowledged. How exactly the DoD should do this, the MTT says, will be left up to them.
The MTT, set up on 2 December 2019, was created by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to investigate the reporting, management and finalization of SEA cases within the SA National Defence Force, domestically and internationally. The SANDF has been heavily critised by the United Nations for allegations of rape during SANDF deployment in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). The MTT report addresses this issue along with the issue that SANDF soldier’s offspring and their mothers may be being abandoned. During a visit to the DRC in April 2020, Chaplain General Monwabisi Andrew Jamangile came down hard on soldiers in the DRC on sexual misconduct.
During the MTT’s time, 21 cases of sexual misconduct were bought forward and 15 have been finalised and the relevant members dismissed from the SANDF.
Mpumlwana is the former chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa. Alongside Mpumlwana, the MTT consisted of Britta Rotman, a legally trained professional with knowledge in sexual abuse, Dr Mongezi Guma, a public speaker and consultant on human rights, management and organizational development, Major-General Daphne Nodola, brought in to assist and give guidance to the task team on dealing with the military structures as well as Mapisa-Nqakula and Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla.
In the broader context of South Africa, sexual violence and crimes are rife. Mapisa-Nqakula’s strong focus on misconduct of this nature has received diplomatic support from the large majority of SANDF leadership and particularly SA’s top soldier, Chief of the SANDF, General Solly Shoke.
Treatment of women and sexual misconduct in the DoD appears to be an issue close to the heart of Mapisa-Nqakula despite what Democratic Alliance and IFP parliamentarians say. With less than 50 cases of sexual misconduct reported for 2020 and now that the full MTT report is out, Mapisa-Nqakula and the DoD have the task of implementing the report’s recommendations.
The MTT established a hot-line for DoD members wanting to report and find support for sexual misconduct, found here.