Children of South Africa’s peacekeepers killed in battle deserve more care from government‚ says Minister


Children of South Africa’s peacekeepers killed in battle deserve more care from government‚ says Minister

Graeme Hosken | 2017-05-29 14:12:13.0

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. File photo

Image by: The Sowetan/Gallo Images

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has made it her mission to advocate for government to properly support the families of South African soldiers who die while on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

Thirty-nine soldiers have died while on combat missions since South Africa became involved in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa from 1999. The minister on Monday attended a ceremony to mark UN International Peacekeepers Day at the South African National Defence Force’s 44 Parachute Regiment in Bloemfontein.

The majority have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo‚ where South Africa has over 1200 troops deployed on a continuous basis.

South Africa has also lost troops in Sudan and Burundi.

Currently the families of troops who die while on a UN peacekeeping mission receive a special UN death benefit. Their families however receive no other benefits from the defence department other than their loved ones’ normal pensions. The department does have an orphans education fund‚ but this relies on donations from the public.

Mapisa-Nqakula‚ who thanked the families of those who died‚ said the country would not stop contributing troops to bring about peace.

“In order for countries to prosper and have economic growth‚ there has to be peace. Our contribution is through our troops.”

But‚ she said‚ at the same time that our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifice‚ SA has to ensure that their families‚ and especially their children‚ are looked after.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the soldiers were breadwinners‚ husbands and fathers.

“We have to ensure that we look after their families should something happen to them. To the families I say this: We will not forget your loved ones and will ensure that they are looked after.

“It is difficult to lose a child. I have lost my son. I am a mother and I know and feel your pain‚ but you must continue to smile and be proud of them.

“Your children died with their boots on serving our country and we will not let their memories be forgotten.”

Her son Chumani died in 2015 after being stabbed by a friend who suffers from schizophrenia.

She said during the department’s recent budget speech in parliament she had raised the issue of compensation for troops who died while on peacekeeping missions.

“The current compensation is not a proper arrangement‚ it is not institutionalised or a proper allocation which comes from government or from the defence force.

“We depend on the goodness of the hearts of South Africans to make donations to the defence force’s orphan education fund.”

Mapisa-Nqakula said she was now advocating for an arrangement whereby government took responsibility in terms of the education fund for support of orphans left behind.

“We owe it to our sons and daughters and I will ensure that this happens. That your children will be taken care of properly.”

TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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