Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was taken to task in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for claiming soldier sexual abuse was not brutality.
She was responding to a question asked by Democratic Alliance (DA) NCOP member Isaac Sileku. He sits on the Select Committee on Security and Justice and his question to the minister was part of an oral session with Cabinet’s security cluster, which includes the defence portfolio.
A DA statement issued on behalf on Sileku has it that “the Minister does not regard sexual abuse perpetrated by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers as brutality”. This was in response to Sileku who wanted Mapisa-Nqakula to elaborate on whether reported cases of brutality during lockdown were isolated. He also sought more information on both reporting and investigating of brutality incidents on peacekeeping missions.
In her response, Mapisa-Nqakula said the Department of Defence (DoD) “hardly ever” receives reports of brutality, “only a few cases” of sexual exploitation and abuse outside South Africa, which she would not categorise as brutality.
“The Minister’s comment on sexual abuse by soldiers is alarming and disappointing. It is unacceptable for a national Cabinet Minister of a country where gender-based violence against women is at an all-time high, especially in light of increased cases during the national lockdown, to take such a position on this issue,” Sileku said in the statement.
In a response to a further DA question regarding 33 reported cases of brutality by soldiers during lockdown, the Minister claimed in some instances civilians provoked soldiers.
“Whether a civilian provokes a law enforcement officer or not, is irrelevant. Soldiers are supposed to be adequately trained to deal with interaction with the public. The failure of soldiers to avoid inflicting brutality on civilians during the national lockdown is an indictment of this Minister and her department,” the statement said.
Sileku condemned the Ministerial comments and wants her to retract them and “make it categorically clear she and her department consider sexual abuse by soldiers as brutality”.
Parliament last month heard four cases of soldier misconduct involving civilians were reported to the SANDF since the national state of disaster and its congruent lockdown started more than three months ago.
In a written reply to a question asked by IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) MP Inkosi Russel Nsikayezwe Cebekhulu, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans said the incidents included the death of Alexandra resident Collins Khosa on Good Friday.
The Military Ombud Office said it received 29 “valid complaints” about soldier abuse or misbehaviour since the lockdown started 98 days ago.