UNITED NATIONS–The United Nations is reviewing the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops to its peacekeeping missions over growing concerns of misconduct and indiscipline within its ranks.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has learnt that this has been formally communicated to the South Africa mission to the UN after new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against several SANDF members serving in the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were revealed earlier this year.

This brings to nine the number of allegations made publicly against South African troops in 2018; allegations which have seen the SANDF deploying 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. The DRC still needs South Africa there,” said South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Jerry Matjila.

“So we’ll discuss with both the Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping and of Field Support to discuss and iron out these issues. Because as we speak now, we have investigators on the ground in the eastern DRC dealing with these issues, all of them.”

The SABC understands that the UN Department of Peacekeeping has communicated with the South African mission here to express its deep appreciation for the long-standing and important contribution Pretoria has made to its operations.

It also told South Africa that the deployments of South African troops are under review in line with a UN Security Council resolution which empowers the Secretary-General to replace all military and police units from any contributing country against which there exists credible evidence of widespread or systematic sexual exploitation or abuse (SEA).

For now, I would characterize our relationship as 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 ( Department of Field Support ) and the CDU ( Conduct and Discipline Unit ), on the matters, said the the Military Adviser at the South African Mission to the UN, Brigadier-General Mninimzi Sizani.

However, 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 the UN if you will investigate,” said Gen. Sizani.

“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 Unit. I’ve been having face to face meeting with them, we have also being communicating to the leadership of the department of field support, 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 South African troops.”

Ambassador Matjila maintains that Pretoria’s 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, South Africa has always responded immediately on any allegations and the Chief of Defence Force, General (Solly) 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 the cases of SEA but called for such requests to be standardized across all peacekeeping missions.