Last week the United Nations marked the International Day of the Peacekeeper and uniformed South Africans, particularly those deployed with the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC, can rightly take a bow.
Airborne elements of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the form of 16 Squadron Rooivalk combat support helicopters have been instrumental in the success achieved to date by the FIB, the first UN peacekeeping force ever to be given an offensive mandate.
The only other peacekeeping mission where South Africa currently has boots on the ground is the hybrid AU/UN mission in Sudan and here too South Africans are doing their bit and more.
With Government apparently intent to keep on using the SANDF as a foreign policy instrument in its attempts to bring peace to Africa as alluded to by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South Africa’s uniformed civil service can expected continued continental deployments under the direction of the Joint Operations Division headed by Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi.
Ministerial comments in this regard were reinforced by SA Army chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, speaking at a recent gathering of the Military Attaché Advisory Corps in Thaba Tshwane.
He said the landward arm of the SANDF has embarked on revised strategic direction to ensure a “well-oiled army able to up the ante and ensure a result driven multi-tasking force ready to deploy and apply assets” where needed, was now in the making. This applied both to internal, especially border protection, and external deployments.
The DRC deployment has no doubt been a morale booster, even though the official SANDF communications machine has not leveraged it at all.
Going forward the SANDF would be well advised to make use of days such as the UN Peacekeepers commemoration and other events to keep not only soldiers but also the wider South African community informed of what the men and women in uniform are doing.
At the end of the day, it can only build goodwill and that is sorely needed by the SANDF and the Defence Ministry in preparation for approval and implementation of the Defence Review.