Eleven members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been found guilty by the defence force for assaulting a 17-year old Congolese citizen in his country.
The trial has been views as historic and ground-breaking trial because this is the first time, the Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act has been used to charge 16 of its members.
They were deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) of Operation Mistral.
The SANDF said although they were not convicted in terms of the act, the case paved the way for the use of the act in the future.
The assault took place on January 30 this year, in Mbuji-Mayi in the Kasai Oriental province.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said three soldiers grapped the victim, who was suspected of stealing plastic basins and buckets belonging to South African soldiers.
They took him inside the military base where he was assaulted, sustaining a minor wound as a result.
“The case was immediately reported to the authorities for a full-scale investigation… after completion, 16 soldiers were charged, including the then acting company commander, two platoon commanders, five non-commissioned officers and eight riflemen,” Mgobozi said.
“Of the original 16 accused, 11 were convicted. Five of the accused were acquitted. Even though no accused were convicted of contravening the provisions of the Prevention of Combating and Torture of Persons Act, they were found guilty of common law assault. This case cleared the way for the future application of the act,” he added.
SANDF chief General Solly Shoke, welcomed the speedy trial and the successful conviction of those found guilty of assault, who tarnished the good name of SANDF peacekeepers in the DRC.
He reiterated that the SANDF would never tolerate crime or criminals in its ranks and would at all times “act against those who display this behaviour”.