Family claims SA Air Force tried to cover up rape at Limpopo base
A member of the SA Air Force was allegedly raped by a colleague at the base in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, while attending a training course last month.
The provincial police have confirmed a man was arrested for rape after the incident on February 29, and the air force said it was aware of the matter.
The woman’s mother, who cannot be identified, told Times Select her daughter was raped after she went to sleep in one of the bungalows at the venue where the training course happened.
She said her daughter called her after being hospitalised but the family had not had any communication from the SA Air Force.
“I feel they were trying to cover this up,” the mother told Times Select.
She also said the air force never made any arrangements to meet the family and that all attempts of communication were from the victim’s family.
Brig-Gen Hilton Smith of the SA National Defence Force confirmed to Times Select that the air force was aware of the incident and that the suspect was in police custody in Hoedspruit.
“The family is aware of the incident, and SA Air Force is dealing with the matter in accordance with internal regulations and policies,” he said in response to questions sent by Times Select.
Smith didn’t respond to questions on whether the suspect had been suspended or if he would continue with his duties if granted bail.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the man would appear in court on April 9 for a bail application.
In December, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula launched a task team to expose soldiers sexually terrorising civilians on international missions.
The task team is mandated to investigate and finalise cases going back to 2014, analyse legal and procedural frameworks within the SANDF, and make recommendations on how to effectively report, manage and conclude cases.
The team must also determine what sentences have been meted out to offenders and whether these have been suitable.
At the time, Mapisa-Nqakula also said the team was tasked to look at how other defence forces handled such crimes committed by their members.
You cannot have a situation where we cover up issues of sexual exploitation and abuse.Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman
A reporting hotline is also to be established to help members report such crimes.
The minister said there was no space in the SANDF “for those who do these kinds of things”.
“You cannot have a situation where we cover up issues of sexual exploitation and abuse.”
Defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said sexual exploitation within the defence force was a serious problem that needed to be dealt with effectively.
“It undermines the entire structure of the defence force.”
In 2015, SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE reported on a UN report that revealed SA soldiers on its peacekeeping missions were the world’s worst military sexual predators.
At the time, a report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services reviewed the organisation’s four biggest peacekeeping missions and sexual offences committed by its peacekeepers, which it then labelled as a “regular occurrence”.