SANDF commended for sexual allegations response

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been commended for its response to allegations of sexual abuse against its members serving as the United Nations peacekeepers. South Africa has about 2000 troops stationed in the DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. The UN has in an update on cases of sexual misconduct by its staff around the world revealed 44 new cases of which 29 were reported in the Central African Republic and seven in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Three of those involved were members of the SANDF deployed in the DRC. The SANDF says criminal activities will not be tolerated in the service. It is not the first time that authorities in the SANDF have taken drastic measures against transgressors. Last year 47 peacekeepers serving the UN missions in the DRC were dismissed for violating a curfew in the eastern DRC where they were based. South Africa has again indicated its seriousness when it comes to discipline in the military especially those representing the country in a global body like the UN.

Lauding SA, the UN said the decision by the country to conduct on site Martials in the DRC against the culprits represented best practice for other troop contributing countries to emulate. SANDF's spokesperson Brigadier general Xolani Mabanga, “A number of member states have acted quickly in giving hard jail-time to soldiers who have been found guilty, one SA has also announced that they will be conducting a court martial on site in the DRC and I think that's a hugely important step because that will give the victims and the impacted community access to justice.” Mabanga has welcomed the compliment by the United Nations. He says discipline and proper conduct by their members especially when posted to global peacekeeping missions is important. He says the letter of the law is strictly followed when such issues arise. “As a country and a defence force we take cognisance of report that have been made and besides that we then investigate to find out what actually happened and take necessary steps in order to correct those. Should we find or if somebody is found to have breached any law or any regulations governing the conduct of the members of the SANDF then disciplinary measures are taken against such individuals.” Mabanga explains the procedures followed when action is taken against those suspected to have violated the SANDF's code of conduct. “We follow the legal processes. Depending on the findings of the judicial system itself and the judgment that will be made and then that determines the outcome of the criminal case itself.” He says, ”If the member has to be dismissed from SANDF and then be it. That member will be dismissed. It stays in the member's record. If he goes to another company or to another firm or to another department to look for employment and then that comes out automatically.” Meanwhile, SA soldiers who were serving in Darfur, Sudan, as part of a combined African Union/United Nations peace mission (Unamid) have been withdrawn there are only a few who are still concluding administrative work remain.

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