Any change in plans as regards the composition of the United Nation’s single largest mission – MONUSCO – have either not been finalised or reached South Africa, a troop and equipment contributor to the Democratic Republic of Congo mission.
The Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) confirms rotation of the South African landward component of MONUSCO’s FIB (Force Intervention Brigade) is currently underway.
This will see Thohoyandou, Limpopo, based 15 SA Infantry Battalion take over from 2 SA Infantry Battalion. The Zeerust-based unit returns home after an extended tour of duty brought on by the international COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions on travel.
Ahead of departure to the central African county, 15 SAI received a farewell and good wishes visit from the General Officer Commanding Joint Operations headquarters Major General Simphiwe Sangweni at the De Brug mobilisation centre in the Free State. He, according to a SANDF LinkedIn post, “clarified uncertainties the contingent had as regards the deployment and left soldiers motivated and ready to be projected to the mission area at any given time”.
The South African commitment to the world body’s peacekeeping efforts in DR Congo, executed under the Operation Mistral tasking, also see SA Air Force (SAAF) rotary-winged assets deployed. The deployment of the composite helicopter unit (CHU), comprising three Rooivalk combat support machines and three Oryx medium transport units, remains in place. Rotations of air and ground crews are done on a short-term basis.
The two-month longer than normal deployment of 2 SAI did not go unnoticed by the senior command of the national defence force. This, again, as per an SANDF LinkedIn post “created fatigue, panic and uncertainty for soldiers on the ground” but did not affect their operational ability.
Ahead of the arrival of 15 SAI, the Thohoyandou unit’s social worker, Captain Lebogang Mokone, called on 2 SAI soldiers in DR Congo “to rejuvenate their minds and restore the will to fight”. He gave his fellow infantrymen and women, including the officer group, an insight into, among others, stress management and coping with human desires and needs in a mission area.