Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula is waging war against SANDF members linked to cases of sexual harassment and abuse while on international duty.

Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday told high-ranking army officials in Pretoria, including SANDF chief Lieutenant-General Solly Shoke, that she intended to establish an investigation into the abuses committed locally and overseas.

“(We have been dealing with) the dreaded three-letter word - Sea (Sexual Abuse and Exploitation). Over the years we have concentrated on this matter I must reiterate my disappointment at the rate of Sea still prevalent in the external deployment areas.

“Even as some action is being taken, we remain rated by the UN as among the highest rate of Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) conducting SEA in mission areas,” she said.

“We are also ranked among the highest TCCs faced with paternity claims for making babies in UN deployments.” She said fathering children on foreign soil had become a serious factor in the assessment of the country’s performance by the UN and that this placed South Africa at a serious disadvantage in discussions to withdraw troops from the DRC.

“I’ve become aware of the rampant cases of Sea incidents internally in deployment areas, as well as in the working environment. These are kept under wraps by the commanders.

“I want to inform you further that I’ve received numerous reports of Sea and sexual harassment within our units. I’ve been mulling over these and have now decided to institute an investigation, short of a commission, by external role-players into this.”

According to the minister, she has adopted this approach because she does not have the confidence that generals and flag officers would provide her with satisfactory reports. “Our own inspector-general, Defence Intelligence (Counter Intelligence), military police, to mention these specific entities, can and should have done more to bring these to the attention of commanders of the SANDF and myself.

“The modalities of this investigation, as well as the terms of reference and time frames, will be promulgated once finalised. I will, therefore, expect that they will receive full co-operation from yourselves.” Mapisa-Nqakula also expressed her disappointment about the poor levels of discipline among senior members of the army.

She said the lack of discipline had the potential of tarnishing the image of the SANDF internationally.

“In this regard, I wish to emphasise that when we talk of issues of discipline and misconduct, I have serious concerns about the high rates.

“It ends up tarnishing the image of the SANDF, as well as the political authority.” Mapisa-Nqakula revealed that her office had tabled a new Military Discipline Supplementary Measures Bill, saying the new provisions in the bill imposed much sterner measures for transgressions.

Political Bureau