South African parliament supports probe into sexual abuse in army


South Africa’s Parliament on Tuesday voiced support for investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

“We are deeply concerned by the view that South Africa remains one of the highest-ranking countries in the United Nation’s rate of troop contributing countries conducting sexual abuse mission areas,” said Cyril Xaba, chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.

This came after Minster of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula appointed a team, headed by Deputy Chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality Thoko Mpumlwana, to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation in the SANDF.

Xaba said his committee welcomed this initiative especially as its announcement coincided with the launch of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the campaign on Monday to raise awareness of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and children and to rid the society of abuse permanently.

“Efforts to bring an end to violence against women and children have been high on Parliament’s agenda, and military transgressions should not be excused,” Xaba said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

He called for efforts to eradicate this distasteful behavior that not only tarnishes the image of the SANDF but continues to pose a threat to both women in the defence force and civilians who expect security and safety from the troops.

According to Xaba, his committee received a briefing last week on the Military Discipline Bill which seeks to strengthen the military court system to make the dispensation of justice to the accused military personnel much quicker.

“We hope that this will be used as one of the mechanisms to address these issues in the military and the committee will ensure that the bill is processed as fast as possible,” Xaba said.

According to a recent SANDF internal report, soldiers, meant to protect South Africa and safeguard peace on the African continent, are sexually assaulting people inside the army and while on peacekeeping operations.

The report reveals that at least 41 members of the army were charged with sexual-related offences, ranging from rape and assault to harassment and crimen injuria over the past 18 months. Of those cases, 26 have been finalized, with 13 guilty verdicts and 11 acquittals.

Last year, five peacekeepers from the SANDF were charged with sexually exploiting women in the DRC, where South African troops have led peacekeeping missions.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported last week that UN Secretary-General António Guterres had received a recommendation from his Department of Peacekeeping Operations that he expel hundreds of SANDF troops over sexual exploitation and abuse allegations in the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. Enditem

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