Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday officially introduced the Ministerial Task Team to investigate the reporting, management and finalization of cases of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and sexual offences in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The four person Ministerial Task Team is expected to investigate about 41 cases of sexual harassment in the SANDF.
Introducing the Task Team members to the media, Mapisa-Nqakula explained that in executing their mandate, the Task Team will take steps to determine what measures are in place to protect and support victims from the moment a matter is reported until its finalization.
"We want to give support to the victims, seemingly there are high numbers of incidents and cases that are unreported, given the nature of the military command and control structure and nature. It was against this background that I established the Ministerial Task Team.
"The victims should be given special attention in the legislative frameworks in place in the processes put in place to manage the systems developed to address the focus areas outlined as well as departmental policies," the Minister said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said the task team will also investigate why in some cases victims are reluctant to testify.
"Where people are reluctant, they must tell us why," the Minister said, adding that victims have a right to come forward and report sexual harassment.
Mapisa-Nqakula said with the establishment of the task team, the department want to encourage SANDF members to have culture self-introspection.
The mandate of the Task Team is as follows:
a) To investigate and conclusion of sexual harassment cases over the period 2014 to date;
b) To investigate and finalization of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) cases over the period 2014 to date; and
c) Investigation and conclusion of sexual offences cases committed over the period 2014 to date.
One of the first tasks of the team is to establish a hotline to operate for the duration of the team's mandate.
The team is also expected to determine the terms of reference, the management and operation of the hotline.
The purpose of the hotline is to:
a) Enable SANDF members to report incidents of sexual harassment, SEA or sexual offences cases.
b) Report incidences where such matters were reported but no action was taken.
c) For members of the SANDF to indicate if they were hesitant to lodge complaints or open cases and the reasons why.
d) For members of the SANDF to report on their experiences in engaging the systems put in place to deal with such matters. For instance, matters of sexual harassment and SEA must not simply be lumped with the MDC provisions of conduct unbecoming of an officer.