Currently underway and due to finish in August are SA Army exercises Matha and Phirima as final preparation for the next RSABATT (RSA Battalion) rotation to the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The exercises are designed to sharpen military skills of Mafikeng-based 10 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion group ahead of moving to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in October/November this year.
They are conducted and overseen by 43 SA Brigade at the Ben Viljoen and Entabeni military training areas in Limpopo. Phirima has two segments – a command post exercise (CPX) and field training at Ben Viljoen, with Matha a specialist jungle warfare training exercise at Entabeni.
The RSABATT Group tasked for DRC deployment comprises 10 SAI as its major component with support from other services and divisions in the form of medical and tactical intelligence.
Another South African contribution to the only United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force given an offensive mandate for protecting civilians is a quick reaction force (QRF) drawn from 1 Parachute Battalion.
The QRF, first conceptualised two years ago, will see a contingent from 1 Parachute Battalion move to the central African country as the second operational one. It will join a Nepalese QRF deployed to the DRC in March, with two more from other troop contributing countries still to come. The QRFs will provide a speedier response to incidents as part of the FIB offensive mandate.
Parabats chosen for the DRC deployment completed final preparations at the SA Army De Brug mobilisation centre outside Bloemfontein were given an official send-off by Joint Operations Headquarters Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Lester Gardiner, also Acting General Officer Commanding Joint Operations.
“Throughout the uncertainty and resistance, you pulled through and demonstrated discipline and resilience. This is why you as 1 Para Battalion are deemed to be cream of the crop; the best of the best. You never faltered in your commitment and the ethos of soldiering in general and being a paratrooper as the pinnacle of achievement. Your motto: Ex Alto Vincimus means: We conquer from above. Live Up to it. Go Well, Godspeed and make us proud,” the one-star said at a mid-May farewell parade.
South African soldiers already in DRC have seen combat against resurgent M23 rebels. RSABATT Public Information Officer Major Anele Cengani reports there was fighting between South Africans and M23 (Sultani Makenga wing) rebels around Rutshuru in North Kivu from 22 May.
South African soldiers in the area supporting DRC government (FARDC) soldiers in an offensive against the armed group. “A few dead bodies from the illegal armed group were observed. We can assure from MONUSCO (United Nations soldiers) and South African soldiers there are no casualties. Our soldiers continue to gain ascendancy over the belligerents,” Cengani reported.
Battery Commander, Major Ndivhuwo Munyai said “good deployment drills were the deciding factor during the firefight. We dedicate this operation to the number one Gunner in South Africa, Brigadier General Jongile Maso who always emphasised good training and discipline will take you far in the Defence Force.”
M23 rebels are waging their most sustained offensive since a 2012-2013 insurrection that briefly overran Goma in eastern DRC Since then, M23 fighters frustrated by the slow pace of demobilisation aimed at reintegrating them into civilian life if they lay down their weapons, periodically return from camps outside DRC to stage attacks inside the country, Reuters reports.