The South African flag will continue to be seen on the shoulders of airmen, military medics and soldiers and fly above bases they operate from in DR Congo until the end of March next year.
This is according to a 16 March letter from Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, to National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise, authorising “fulfilment of international obligations towards the UN”.
The letter gives the Presidential thumbs-up for 957 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel to be in the central African country, under the Operation Mistral tasking, as part of both the UN Mission MONUSCO and its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
The allocation of South African military personnel to its largest peace support mission will cost R818 504 388 for the 1 April to 31 March period according to the Presidential missive.
On the same day another Ramaphosa letter, this one addressed to National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chair Amos Masondo, extended South Africa’s contribution to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) anti-piracy tasking Operation Copper in the Mozambique Channel.
As with Mistral it authorises the SA Navy (SAN), possibly with SA Air Force (SAAF) assets, to continue patrolling the busy east African commercial sea lane. The extension of the maritime deployment is also until 31 March next year and authorises 200 SANDF personnel to be “employed” in it.
In its latest available annual report, for 2019/20, the Department of Defence (DoD) notes two Operation Copper deployments took place without specifying either the platforms used or the time spent on station.
Authorising the extension Ramaphosa writes: “Due to the fact that maritime piracy remains a threat to all countries sharing borders with the western Indian Ocean, the SANDF will continue deterring and preventing piracy in the Mozambique Channel”.
Extension of the sole regional maritime operation is “expected” to cost R38 916 213 Ramaphosa’s letter.