A number of roads in South Africa will this week carry reasonably heavy volumes of military traffic as armed forces from neighbouring countries move into the country for the AU’s African Standby Force (ASF) preparation exercise Amani Africa II.
Scheduled to start on October 19 at the SA Army Combat Training Centre (CTC) at Lohathla in the Northern Cape, the exercise will see in excess of 5 000 troops, police and civilians take part.
Major troop contributing countries are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Other countries involved in either contributing or participating are Algeria, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda.
In addition to personnel and equipment coming in by road, indications are at least two and possibly three Il-76 airlifters will land at Upington Airport this week carrying military materiel and personnel bound for CTC. Last week Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, SANDF Joint Operations Chief, named the Northern Cape airport as one of seven ports of entry to South Africa to be used by foreign militaries between today and Saturday.
The others are Nakop (border post with Namibia), Ramatlabama (border post with Botswana), Beit Bridge (border post with Zimbabwe), Lebombo (border post with Mozambique), Oshoek (border post with Swaziland) and Maseru Bridge (border post with Lesotho).
Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen, Joint Operations media liaison who is SANDF public information officer for the AU exercise, said there would also be South African military convoys on a number of the country’s roads this week. He asked motorists to be aware of the convoys, local and foreign, that will be escorted by military police, police and metro and local municipal police en route to Lohathla.
In the Northern Cape the military convoys will affect traffic in and around Upington, Olifantshoek, Kuruman, Kathu, Kimberley, Barkly-West and Postmasburg (the closest town to Lohathla) while 12 urban areas in North West are on the alert list. They are Mafikeng, Stella, Vryburg, Rustenburg, Koster, Lichtenburg, Biesiesvlei, Sannieshof, Delareyville, Potchefstroom, Ventersdorp and Coligny.
In Limpopo motorists are advised to be aware of military convoys in and Musina, Makhado and Polokwane while Pretoria and Brakpan traffic in Gauteng could be affected.
No less than 15 Mpumalanga urban areas (Komatipoort, Malelane, Nelspruit, Ngodwana, Machadodorp, Belfast, Middelburg, Emalahleni, Bronkhorstspruit, Lochiel, Chrissiesmeer, Ermelo, Bethal, Trichardt and Leandra) will see military vehicles pass through.
Free State will provide the entry point for the Lesotho Defence Force contingent and its convoy will pass through or around Ladybrand, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo, Bloemfontein and Petrusburg.
“The SANDF would like to warn the public about the Amani Africa exercise and implications it may have or their normal activities. At the same time the SANDF appeals to the public to be supportive of the exercise and its aims in pursuit of peace and stability on our continent,” Theunissen said.
Officially Amani Africa will evaluate the state of readiness of the ASF and exercise it rapid deployment capability (RDC). The exercise starts on October 26 with a rapid deployment as a start-up operation followed by a full multi-dimensional peace support operation before finish and demobilisation on November 4.