A high-level ministerial task team investigating the legal frameworks around sexual abuse and exploitation by members of the armed forces is expected by the end of the year.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said during her adjusted budget speech in the National Assembly on Thursday the country continued to be ravaged by gender-based violence.
“I have consistently condemned the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation amongst members of the SANDF deployed in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Unfortunately, these cases are not confined to members of the SANDF deployed externally. The SANDF is not immune to this scourge,” she added.
In November 2019, Mapisa-Nqakula appointed a ministerial task team to investigate the legal frameworks in place, the processes in reporting and managing cases as well as the sentences meted out in finalised cases.
“This is in an effort to develop a comprehensive response for the SANDF to protect all its members, as well as civilians in deployment areas, against such incidents.
“The team is busy finalising its report and recommendations, and putting transitional arrangements in place to take specific cases forward and to protect the victims which came forward and entrusted them with their cases,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula again hammered on the SA National Defence Force’s financial constraints.
“As the budget continues to decline, we are forced to scale down on our capabilities. We have, for instance, over the years indicated that for effective border safeguarding, we need at least 22 companies, but we have 15, and will not have that in the foreseeable future given the continued budget decline.
“This continued situation is directly affected by the cost of employees and the reality of the budget deficit we are operating under.”
Despite the constraints on its finances, Mapisa-Nqakula said the armed forces have been in the eye of the Covid-19 storm.
“We have the provided health professionals across the spectrum in all the provinces, drawn from the regulars, reserve forces and volunteers. The healthcare professionals provide services to our own members and the health department.
“[This is done] through primary healthcare teams for screening, testing and tracing purposes across the country; mass quarantine sites in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo [and] decontamination teams,” she added, saying a team of military health professionals had been deployed to the Eastern Cape.