SABC News has exclusively learned that the United Nations is reviewing the deployment of South African National Defence Force troops to its peacekeeping missions over growing concerns of misconduct and indiscipline within its ranks.
It was formally communicated to the SA Mission to the UN after new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against several SANDF members serving in the MONUSCO mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo were revealed earlier this year.
This brings to nine the number of allegations made public against South African troops in 2018; allegations that have seen the SANDF deploy military investigators to the DRC to conduct a thorough review of the claims.
The South Africans are clear – they are talking to the UN and addressing all their concerns. “Well we are now requested to make sure that we provide night vision helicopters by June, because they still need us. DRC still needs SA there. So we’ll discuss with both Under Secretary General of Peacekeeping of Field Support to discuss and iron out these issues. Because as we speak now, we have investigators on the ground in eastern DRC dealing with these issues, all of them,” says Ambassador Jerry Matjila.
The SABC understands that the Department of Peacekeeping had communicated with the South African mission expressing a deep appreciation for the long-standing and important contribution Pretoria has made to its operations.
It also told South Africa that their deployments are under review in line with Security Council resolution 2272 that empowers the Secretary General to replace all military and police units from any contributing country against whom there exists credible evidence of widespread or systematic sexual exploitation or abuse.
“For now I would characterize our relationship deeper than the ocean and higher than the mountain. We remain totally committed and in touch and we work in tandem with the UN both the DFS and the CDU on the matters,” says the Military Advisor to the SA Mission to the UN Brigadier General Mninimzi Sizani.
But the UN says it has told the South Africans that they are still awaiting a full reply to the requests for information as to how the country it tackling the SEA allegations within its ranks over and above the cases it’s currently investigating.
“In the course of this year we have received two ‘note verbale’ (official diplomatic communication) on the matters. As discussed that seeks to inform us that there are allegations against our troops. The normal process, within five days you have to inform UN if you will investigate. Secondly, when you do investigate, inform UN of the investigation and its outcome. And through a note verbale, we have communicated with the UN, with the office of Conduct and Discipline CDU. I’ve been having face to face meeting with them, we have also being communicating to the leadership of the department of field support, Mr Athul Kare to inform him in all the note verbale which we’ve received, that we’re dispatched national investigation officers that comprise our legal officers and the military police to do a thorough investigation of the allegations reported against the SA troops,” says Sizani.
Ambassador Matjila maintains that its relationship with UN Peacekeeping remains strong. “It’s not so much a tension, I think its miscommunication that we’re dealing with, the whole of last night, this morning, we’ve been saying to them, SA has always responded immediately on any allegations and the Chief of Defence Force General Shoke has issued stern warnings and instruction to the commanders on the ground, in the mission areas to act immediately on these issues.”
South Africa also clarified that it is not against joint-investigations with the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services into SEA but called for such requests to be standardized across all peacekeeping missions.