Zuma should visit SANDF personnel while in DRC – Heitman

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The upcoming presence of President Jacob Zuma in the DRC on a State visit would be “the ideal opportunity” for a morale boosting visit to South African soldiers stationed there as part of the UN peacekeeping force.

Zuma, as Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), will spend tomorrow and Wednesday in the central African country along with a posse of six Cabinet Ministers, including Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
“The situation on the ground in particularly the eastern DRC will have to be taken into account but if Zuma, specifically in his Commander-in-Chief guise, can call on South African soldiers deployed as part of MONUSCO and its FIB (force intervention brigade) it would be a massive boost to the men and women in uniform,” defence analyst Helmoed Heitman said.

More than a thousand South African soldiers are currently serving in the FIB, the first UN peacekeeping force ever in the world body’s history to be given an offensive mandate.

South Africa has also committed three of its home-grown Rooivalk combat support helicopters to the FIB. The rotorcraft, along with aircrew and a full complement of support personnel, are expected to be in the DRC before the end of the year.

The FIB’s current mandate from the UN Security Council expires in March next year. It is comprised of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian elements under the command of Tanzanian Brigadier James Mwakibolwa and has supported Congolese troops in driving M23 rebels from fortified positions outside the city of Goma.
“South Africa is playing a critical part in the promotion and consolidation of peace and stability in the DRC by contributing troops to the UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), as well as a battalion serving as part of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade established under the UN Security Council Resolution 2098,” according to a statement issued by The Presidency ahead of the State visit.

Heitman said “only good” should come from the State visit to DRC, particularly with regard to strengthening economic ties and in the area of infrastructure development. He singled out the massive Grand Inga water and hydro-electric power development as an example of where improved relations will be beneficial not only to the DRC and South Africa but the overall southern African region as well.

South Africa has committed itself to buying 2 500MW of electricity capacity from Grand Inga once it is up and running.

When finished the Grand Inga development will generate twice as much power as China’s Three Gorges Dam. Those behind the project to harness the Congo River maintain it can provide 40% of the continent’s electricity.

In this regard the presence of Energy Minister Ben Martins and trade and industry counterpart, Rob Davies, on the State visit are seen as significant.

Other Cabinet members accompanying Zuma are Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (International Relations and Co-operation), Collins Chabane (Performance Monitoring and Evaluation), and Nathi Mthethwa (Police).
“Expansion of economic co-operation and investment between the two countries will be on the agenda,” The Presidency said.