Empowering peacekeepers: Inside South Africa’s peace mission training centre

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Democratic South Africa’s involvement in continental peacekeeping and peace support operations started in 1999. Nine years later the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) set up its own training centre specifically for peacekeeping and associated disciplines.

To date 5 870 personnel have attended courses at the Peace Mission Training Centre (PMTC), from the four SANDF arms of service as well as Department of Defence (DoD) divisions, and officers, constables, wardens and other SA Police Service (SAPS) and Department of Correctional Services (DCS) staff (now the responsibility of Minister Ronald Lamola as Minister of Justice and Correctional Services).

Sited on the SA Army College grounds in the country’s unofficial military “capital” Thaba Tshwane, the PMTC was the outcome of a United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution. It was taken into service in November 2008 by now retired SA Army three-star Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi.

The current PMTC curriculum runs to nine “programmes” which, with the exception of one, are of two weeks duration.

The fortnight-long “programmes” cover an introduction to peace missions; civil/military co-operation and co-ordination; disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration (DDR); gender advice; negotiating; peace relief and reconstruction along with “programmes” specific to the responsibilities of peace mission commanders and military observers. The peace mission staff officer course is a four-week one.

PMTC programmes enabled SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army, SA Navy (SAN) and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) officers, non-commissioned and senior non-commissioned officers to properly execute duties assigned them on any of the previous nine and current three continental peacekeeping and/or peace support missions South Africa committed to. Six are or were UN missions with the remainder either African Union (AU) or hybrid AU/UN missions alongside two current Southern African Development Community (SADC) missions – in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique, and the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).

Missions were, or are – in no particular order:
Operation Montego (Liberia), supporting the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from October 2003 to January 2005.
Operation Pristine (Côte d’Ivoire), assisting the peace process, including Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) between 2005 and 2006.
Operation Cordite (Darfur, Sudan), supporting the African Union Mission in Sudan and subsequently UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) between 2004 and 2016.
Operation Espresso (Ethiopia and Eritrea), monitoring the peace agreement between 2000 and 2008 under UN and AU missions.
Operation Bongane (South Sudan, Uganda), deploying observers under an AU mission covering the Lord’s Resistance Army ceasefire in southern Sudan/Uganda between 2007 and 2009.
Operations Fibre and Curriculum (Burundi): the deployment of peacekeepers under a bilateral agreement between 2001 and 2003 and 2006 and 2009. The SANDF deployed in support of the AU mission there from 2003 to 2004 and the UN force from 2004 to 2006.
Operation Triton (Comoros), providing electoral assistance, weapons collection, and observers to the Comoros from 2001 to 2002, 2004 to 2006, and in 2007.
Operations Amphibian, Mistral, Sunray and Teutonic (DRC): supporting peacekeeping operations in the DRC from 1999 to the present day on behalf of the United Nations and European Union Interim Emergency Multinational Force in the DRC, and assisting with security sector reform of the DRC’s Armed Forces.
Operation Vimbuzela (Central African Republic): a bilateral arrangement with the CAR to assist with military training and security between 2007 and 2013.
Operation Vikela (Mozambique): contributing troops to the SADC Mission in Mozambique to combat insurgents between 2021 and 2024.
Operation Thiba: The SANDF’s contribution to the SADC Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC) from 2023.

The PMTC is a responsibility of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) SANDF Training Command, Brigadier General TM Madie, with Colonel Jackson Dhlame Officer in Charge.