Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) President Cyril Ramaphosa followed Constitutional obligations to inform Parliament of decisions to utilise the military in two separate taskings.
Presidential missives addressed to National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) chair Amos Masondo, dated 3 and 5 April, extend and in one instance add to the “employment” of sailors and soldiers on continental and regional deployments for a 12 month period.
The continental deployment is, according to the Presidential letter, “for service in fulfilment of an international obligation”. It sees South African military personnel numbers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) boosted by 241, bringing SANDF numbers serving with the UN’s MONUSCO peacekeeping mission to 1 198. The SANDF deployment in the sprawling central African country is codenamed Operation Mistral.
While not stated in Ramaphosa’s letter, the additional soldiers are, in all probability, the South African quick reaction force (QRF) named by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres when reporting to the Security Council (SC) last month. An advance party of the South African QRF was, according to Guterres, “expected with the main body due in March and April.”
The South African contingent in DRC will see the defence budget depleted by over R1 billion over its year-long deployment. A large percentage of the R1 004 241 271 will be recouped as the world body pays for the various services, equipment and personnel supplied to its peacekeeping and other missions.
The second Presidential letter commits 200 SANDF personnel to a Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime security “obligation”.
It will, in all probability, see at least one SA Navy (SAN) platform with an overall personnel commitment of 200 working to counter “the threat of piracy and related illegal activities in the Indian Ocean” until 31 March next year as part of Operation Copper.
The maritime patrols, until now concentrated in the Mozambique Channel, will cost R154 million. As with Op Mistral, the anti-piracy deployment runs until 31 March 2023.