Eight SANDF soldiers who were deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will soon respond to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
According to the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (Monusco), a preliminary assessment found that the SANDF members serving in the east of the country were seen fraternising after curfew hours at out-of-bounds bars known as locations where transactional sex occurs, which was strictly prohibited under the UN standards of conduct.
In a statement dated October 12, the Monusco said it took robust action in response to allegations by immediately repatriating the soldiers – one senior military officer – and requested the replacement of two other senior military officers.
“The contingent members allegedly assaulted Monusco staff members and military police personnel, who were attempting to detain them during the patrol.
“These nine identified contingent members have been detained and confined to barracks by the military police.
One senior South African military officer also reportedly attempted to hinder the investigation and threatened mission personnel, while two other senior South African military officers reportedly failed to properly exercise their responsibilities in the command of their personnel.
“(The) identified contingent members have been detained and confined to barracks by the military police.
“One senior South African military officer also reportedly attempted to hinder the investigation and threatened mission personnel, while two other senior South African military officers reportedly failed to properly exercise their responsibilities in the command of their personnel.
“The UN has notified the South African authorities who indicated their full cooperation including through the deployment of a national investigation officer,” the statement read.
Any identified victims were expected to be referred for assistance in line with the United Nations Comprehensive Strategy on Assistance and Support to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the Department of Defence received the UN’s report containing the allegations of serious acts of ill-discipline and misconduct by their members.
“It is unfortunate that the RSA, as a Troop Contributing Country (TCC) was not informed of these allegations as is normal procedure but first learnt about such in the media.
“The reporting procedure was not followed by the United Nations because the RSA Defence Adviser nor the RSA United Nations Representative were informed as per the Standard Operating Procedure for all TCCs.
“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, the SANDF took a decision to recall the implicated soldiers back to South Africa to answer to the allegations and to give account of events that transpired on October 1, 2023 in Beni.
“Furthermore, National Investigating Officers (NIOs) have been dispatched to the Monusco deployment area to conduct a formal investigation.
Upon completion of the investigation, the SANDF will pronounce itself,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini told the Cape Times on Sunday that the soldiers were yet to arrive in South Africa.
Cosatu parliamentary co-ordinator Matthew Parks said they were “deeply concerned” about the allegations and welcomed the swift action by the SANDF to recall the affected personnel.
“We urge the UN and the SANDF to undertake a swift investigation into the actions, and if any members are guilty of the charges, the appropriate action should follow,” Parks said.
“We applaud the good work done by the majority of SANDF members deployed on peacekeeping missions, often at great risk to themselves.
“We are however concerned about continuous allegations of activities of some members accused of misconduct.
“These need to be attended as they threaten the mandate of the mission, the security of SANDF personnel and the reputation of the nation. It is important that all personnel charged be allowed representation to ensure their defence is heard and justice is seen to be done.”