SAMIDRC rejects mis- and disinformation on eastern DR Congo mission

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) added its voice to those of South Africa’s Departments of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) and Defence (DoD) by dismissing “false and misleading statements” about its eastern DRC operations.

“SAMIDRC strongly rejects misinformation and disinformation about its military operations in the eastern part of the DRC and would like to make it clear that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) troops deployed to the DRC are under the mandate of the SADC,” a statement issued by SADC Secretariat Head of Communication and Public Relations, Barbara Lopi, reads.

It continues saying: “The deployment of the SAMIDRC was approved by the Extraordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Windhoek, Republic of Namibia, on 8 May 2023 as a regional response to address the unstable and deteriorating security situation prevailing in eastern DRC.

“As part of the SAMIDRC, a SADC regional force from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania and elements of the DRC Armed Forces are working with the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), in fighting armed groups operating in eastern DRC.”

SAMIDRC “categorically” states the situation on ground is normal and the mission and force continues with routine operational schedules.

Web-based National Security News (NSN) on Tuesday (2 April) posted a report indicating “several” South African soldiers, attached to SAIMDRC, had surrendered to M23 rebels. First to repudiate was DIRCO spokesman Clayson Monyela, followed by Siphiwe Dlamini, DoD Head of Communication (HoC). Subsequently, NSN published a second report on the subject stating it stood by its first and pointing out it never mentioned two soldiers as stated in the DoD response.

Two retired SANDF officers, one from the SA Air Force (SAAF) with a counter-intelligence mustering and the other a former SA Navy (SAN) captain, agree it’s fake news. One asks why the South African contingent to SAMIDRC was specifically targeted by NSN and the other notes “true information dismissed as fake opens a large can of smelly worms”.

“We live in a post-truth world with most of the population immersed in absolute nonsense all day, every day, through mobile indoctrination,” he told defenceWeb on condition of anonymity.

Retired Major General Ashton Sibango warned that the “South National Executive and, by extension, the military leadership, should be weary of what may be coming out of this deliberate act of propaganda.”

He suggested South Africa should have a master exit strategy with well-defined objectives for its DRC deployment and “diplomatic engagements with Rwanda cannot be overemphasise.” Part of South Africa’s approach to peace and security in the eastern DRC should include diplomacy, mediation, and capacity building.