In a reply to an oral question in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) yesterday, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that she does not regard sexual abuse perpetrated by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers as brutality.
I had asked the Minister to elaborate on whether reported cases of brutality during the national lockdown were isolated, or were other brutality incidents during peacekeeping not being reported or investigated.
In her response, Mapisa-Nqakula stated that her Department hardly ever receives reports of brutality, but only a few cases of sexual exploitation and abuse outside the borders of South Africa, which she would not categorise as brutality.
The Minister’s comment of sexual abuse by SANDF soldiers in this regard is alarming and disappointing. It is unacceptable for a national Cabinet Minister of a country where gender-based violence against women is at an all-time high, especially in light of increased cases during the national lockdown, would take such a position on this issue.
In a response to another question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) regarding the 33 reported cases of brutality by soldiers on South Africans during lockdown, the Minister claimed that in some of these instances, civilians provoked soldiers when they saw them on the street.
Whether a civilian provokes a law enforcement officer or not, is irrelevant. SANDF soldiers are supposed to have adequate training to deal with any sort of interaction with the public, and the failure of soldiers to avoid inflicting brutality on civilians during the national lockdown, is an indictment of this Minister and her department.
The women of South Africa deserve better. If this is the stance of a Minister, how does President Ramaphosa expect South Africans to take him seriously when has already committed to tackling gender-based violence and sexual crimes head-on through various sectors of government?
The DA condemns the comments made by Mapisa-Nqakula, and calls on the Minister to retract her statements, and make it categorically clear that she, and her department considers sexual abuse by SANDF soldiers as brutality.
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