The five SA National Defence Force (SANDF) elements assigned peacekeeping and peace support taskings in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were on the receiving end of a high-powered fact-finding mission with general officers seeking updates on prime mission equipment (PME) maintenance, operational challenges and others, including “engagements for feasible solutions”.
At the behest of the South African government, particularly those responsible for its international relations, the country is committed to continental peacekeeping. At present this commitment sees soldiers and other SANDF personnel, including aircrews and military medical staff, in the DRC and Mozambique. The central African commitment is directly to the United Nations (UN) with the Mozambique deployment part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to the northern part of South Africa’s eastern neighbour.
The present make-up of the South African military in the DRC comprises 10 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion with the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (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 Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) and an SA Air Force (SAAF) composite helicopter unit (CHU).
Heading up the SANDF delegation was Joint Operations Division Chief, Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni. Also part of the fact-finder was Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, SAAF Chief, and Brigadier General IN Moreetsi, helicopter systems director.
“The purpose of the operational visit,” reports Lieutenant Rekkie Letsoalo, RSABATT public information officer, “was to assess conditions the contingent is deployed under, also to evaluate the status of PME and hear the daily operational challenges and as well as engagements with deployed members for feasible solutions”.
The visit started at FIB headquarters where the Sangweni and his team received a comprehensive presentation on the general security situation of the FIB area of responsibility. Next up was 10 SAI headquarters where Officer Commanding, Lieutenant Colonel TM Radzilani and her order group updated successes, challenges and solutions and in turn, were exhorted to “stay strong in the face of adversity”.
The three-star, as reported by the public information officer, provided “valuable guidelines” to the troops with congratulations for a job well done. He further reminded them of Joint Operations Division commitment to zero tolerance for ill-discipline and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
Letsoalo has it the two-day visit of senior SANDF staff to the Beni area of operations (AOO) was “a morale booster for troops on the ground”.
The SANDF deployment to the 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.