14 SAI training for DRC deployment

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Soldiers from Eastern Cape’s 14 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion find themselves a long way from home in Limpopo’s Phalaborwa area as mission training starts ahead of a continental peacekeeping deployment.

The men and women from Mthatha, along with South African and Tanzanian tactical intelligence specialists, are at the Ben Viljoen training area for initial training before moving to Entabeni training area for specialist jungle warfare training.

General Officer Commanding Headquarters 43 SA Brigade, Brigadier General MA Mantshiyane, told the newcomers at the official opening of the training Exercise Phirima his aim is to ensure they are “combat-ready, robust, aggressive and versatile” against any threat in the way of MONUSCO achieving peace and stability in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He told soldiers, in the presence of Acting Officer Commanding 14 SA Infantry Battalion, Major MR Tsetsewa, to behave once in the mission area and apply knowledge imparted during training.

Ahead of hands-on jungle training, the group will be part and parcel of a command post exercise (CPX) as an additional must in preparation for the United Nations (UN) deployment.

10 SAI from Mafikeng is the current South African battalion component of the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). The battalion has been in DRC since November with the Mthatha unit probably set to rotate with its North West sister SA Army Infantry Formation colleagues in the eleventh month of this year.

Ahead of departure and post final deployment administration and training at the SA Army mobilisation centre at De Brug in Free State, 14 SAI and the tactical intelligence unit rotation will be evaluated by a United Nations (UN) team.

Explaining the role of the tactical intelligence component, Captain N Ntsoaki Ramolula, Staff Officer 2, Operational Communication wrote it is a combined South African/Tanzanian unit established to gather and collect intelligence on armed groups. This allows the FIB to engage and defend against multiple threats in the area of operation and increases the level of protection for civilians.

The present make-up of the South African military presence in the DRC comprises 10 SA Infantry Battalion with the MONUSCO FIB, an SA Army tactical intelligence unit, a SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) air medical evacuation team, an infantry quick reaction force (QRF) attached to the FIB and a SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit (CHU).

The SANDF deployment to DRC (Operation Mistral) will use an estimated R1.035 billion between 1 April 2023 and 31 March 2024. Earlier this year President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised employment of 1 198 SANDF personnel to serve with MONUSCO to disarm, neutralise and prevent the expansion of armed groups.

Operation Mistral cost R801 million in 2019; R637 million in 2020; R691 million in 2021 and R674 million in 2022.