6 SAI Op Vikela deployment done and dusted

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The specialist airborne assault infantry battalion of the SA Army is back in South Africa following deployment to Mozambique as part of the now winding down Southern African regional bloc mission – SAMIM.

6 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion based in Makanda (formerly Grahamstown) is, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division staffer Mr BB Best, busy demobilising at Joint Mobilisation and Demobilisation Centre at de Brug, outside the Free State provincial capital Bloemfontein.

The returning infantry soldiers were welcomed back by Lieutenant Colonel MK Molapisi, Acting Officer Commanding of the Centre. He thanked the airborne infantry specialists for making “a patriotic sacrifice” for the benefit of Mozambicans and “the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC)”.

Looking to the future, Molapisi encouraged those just back from Cabo Delgado to keep their health assessments in place and be ready for standby to support Operation Thiba (the SADC mission in Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]) externally and the internal border protection tasking Operation Corona. With the SANDF committed to internal deployments in support of the SA Police Service, curbing illegal mining and protecting and securing national key points (NKPs) as part of the ongoing Operation Prosper tasking, he said the men and women from Makhanda could find themselves on active duty “whenever the need arises”.

The unit’s return to South African soil was marked by the Goodwill Parcel Project, which normally boosts Christmas spirit among troops on active service, in and out of country, delivering what is termed “tokens of appreciation”, at year-end. With hazardous and potentially lethal conditions in the 6 SAI area of operations, there was no December goodwill parcel delivery to Mozambique.

6 SAI was the backbone of the 1 500-strong South African commitment to SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique) from November on completion of readiness training and mobilisation.

SAMIM was set up operationally in mid-2021 as a regional bloc peace initiative to rid Cabo Delgado of ASWJ (Al-Sunna Wa-Jama’ah)/Islamic State insurgents, active since 2017, and is set to cease operations in July. Fourteen months after activation as a full military force it transitioned to a multi-dimensional mission undertaking combined operations with police, correctional services and civilian input and participation.

At least three of the nine SADC troop and material contributing countries – Angola, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia – exited Mozambique ahead of the SAMIM shutdown, with Rwanda pledging additional troops under a separate bilateral agreement.