“The enemy is everywhere. Do not think that just because you are simply outside your base they [the enemy] are not there.”
Mapisa-Nqakula — who was in Bloemfontein to commemorate the United Nations Peacekeepers Day — paid homage to the families of the 39 South African peacekeepers who have died while on UN peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions since 1999.
Addressing the 850 soldiers from 5 South African Infantry Battalion‚ who are to be deployed as part of the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade in the eastern DRC‚ Mapisa-Nqakula said she would not tolerate “nonsense” from the troops.
“You have names of your predecessors to live up to‚ many of who gave their lives in trying to bring peace and security to vulnerable people.
“I do not want to hear of you starting relationships with people in your deployment area because you will be in violation of these rules. These people are vulnerable and look up to you as their protectors.”
Mapisa-Nqakula’s warning follows a 2015 UN report which revealed that South African peacekeepers were amongst the worst when it came to sexual predators in UN peacekeeping missions.
She urged the troops to carry themselves with pride.
“There are command and control structures in place and these must be adhered to. I am talking to you as your minister and your mother. Don’t do things — like visit brothels or take drugs — that you wouldn’t do in front of me or your families.
“I am not going to tell you this again. You are in this deployment to show to the world that we can bring peace to Africa.
“If you come home in body bags let that be because you died fighting like a hero not because of some other nonsense.”
The area the troops are to be deployed to is occupied by the Islamic extremist group known as the ADF. The area and other areas the troops are to be stationed in‚ which include thick jungles near the Rwandan border‚ are also home to dozens of other militia affiliated to the Mai Mai and other rebel groups fighting for control of valuable mineral resources.
By Graeme Hosken