The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and South African Police Service (SAPS) continue to participate in conflict prevention and peacekeeping in the continent, the government has said, with anti-piracy operations and peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.
Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said there has been a drastic reduction of piracy in the Mozambique Channel following SANDF operations in the area since 2011.
“SANDF successfully deployed two ships, SAS Spioenkop and SAS Galeshewe, on Operation Copper in the Mozambique Channel, alternating times during the reporting period,” Minister Cwele said. On Tuesday, he chaired the International Cooperation, Trade and Security cluster media briefing, which was held in Cape Town.
The tasking sees South African military assets, airborne and maritime, patrolling the Mozambique Channel. It has its origin in the hijacking of the ship Vega 5 by Somali pirates in the Mozambique Channel and was formally adopted in August 2011 with two components – intelligence gathering and military deterrence.
The SANDF continues to participate in the UN Peace Support Operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Operation Mistral), the United Nations (UN)/African Union (AU) Hybrid Peace Support Operation in Sudan (Operation Cordite), with over 2 000 soldiers deployed on these missions.
“The Force Intervention Brigade, which [the] SANDF is part of, had a very successful operation that saw the biggest armed group in the eastern DRC, M23, surrendering,” Cwele said, referring to the events of November 2013, when the Force Intervention Brigade, backed by Rooivalk combat helicopters, targeted M23 rebels.
One notable peacekeeping achievement was the recent appointment earlier this year of Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi to force commander of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the largest peace support operation in the world, with some 20 000 personnel.
The SANDF has also assisted with the development and completion of the Military Strategy of the Armed Forces of the DRC, the government said. Defence and Military Veteran Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula on Tuesday in Cape Town met her counterpart from the DRC, Crispen Atama Tabe Mogodi to discuss the country’s military strategy, and upcoming elections.
According to the Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans, the two ministers discussed issues concerning the implementation of the Military Strategy for the DRC, which was presented to the Bi-National Commission which was held in the DRC 2015 before the Presidents of the two countries and approved for implementation.
Mapisa-Nqakula said that South Africa was ready to send the implementation team led by Major General Barney Hlatshwayo to help with the implementation of the strategy so that they are able to report in the next Bi-National Commission on the progress made with regards to that strategy. The strategy, amongst many issues, deals with the restructuring of the Armed Force of the DRC.
“It is very critical that implementation of this strategy begins in earnest as this is long overdue and our members are waiting and ready to be deployed in the DRC…to assist and support with the implementation of the military strategy. We implore you to make sure that this is done as quickly as possible so that we can report in the next Bi-National Commission,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Mogodi agreed that this must be implemented and that they were ready to receive Major General Hlatshwayo and his team in the DRC to start with the implementation. He said when he gets back to the DRC he will facilitate the arrival of the South African Team. Both Ministers agreed that the Implementation Team must be in place by April 2016.
Another matter that was discussed was the help that was required by the DRC in preparations for the elections which are due to be held this year. The DRC indicted that preparing for the elections in that country is very difficult and expensive due to the infrastructure and the vastness of that country. They appreciated the gesture by South Africa to assist with whatever support they have at their disposal.
The South African National Defence Force has provided training to the DRC armed force’s military (FARDC), for at least the past four years in terms of an agreement between the two countries. Operation Thebe, as it is known, is separate from South Africa’s involvement in and commitment to the UN Mission in the DRC – MONUSCO – and its Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
Last year SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo said that Operation Thebe had trained and handed over more than 9 000 recruits and soldiers for utilisation by the DRC.
“The South African government will continue to contribute to peacekeeping on the continent through various peacekeeping missions. Our involvement in peacekeeping missions is premised on our appreciation that Africa’s economic development depends on the substance of peace and stability,” Cwele said.
He said South Africa will continue to play a critical role in the restoration of peace and stability in the DRC, Burundi, Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan and other conflict torn countries.
The country will work in partnership with regional and international partners and as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council.