At the moment some 6 000 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel are deployed on internal and external missions, including 2 200 on peacekeeping duties, 2 200 on South Africa’s borders and several hundred on Operation Fiela.
Chief of the South African Army, Lieutenant General Vusimuzi Masondo, said that at the moment a total of 18 000 troops are either deployed, being prepared for deployments or coming back from deployments.
“At the apex of our mandate is the SA Army’s provision of combat-ready forces for the SANDF to deploy on continental missions in support of peace and security as well as ensuring that our borders are secured, curbing the influx of illicit goods and undocumented persons into our country,” Masondo said.
“The SA Army has to that end trained and provided a total of 2 213 members who are currently deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and the Darfur Region in Sudan as part of United Nations and African Union mandated missions. The South African Army continues to support these missions with personnel during rotation intervals. 121 South African Infantry Battalion has now taken over from 5 South African Infantry Battalion in the DRC as part of the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade that is credited with neutralising M23 and continues being a stabilising force in the vast DRC.
“Our training mission in the DRC – Mission Thebe – a mission in support of the integration training of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), has to date trained and handed over 9 000 recruits and soldiers for utilisation by the DRC,” Masondo said.
“Following the attacks on foreign nationals, the SA Army provided forces to support the South African Police Service and other state agencies in stabilising the situation around hotspots in our country. As part of Operation Fiela, our soldiers in support of the South African Police Service helped apprehend a number of known criminals and undocumented persons. The majority of those arrested were South Africans with foreign nationals being a minority. The focus here was to arrest the wide-spread criminality that people were willing to commit, masquerading as protestations against the presence of foreign nationals in our communities.”
Between five and six hundred soldiers were deployed at the height of Operation Fiela in support of the South African Police Service (SAPS). Masondo said that Operation Fiela has not been too taxing in terms of budget and that internal operations have not been too demanding on the South African Army. “Even though we have challenges we have been coping.”
Masondo said that the defence minister in her budget vote said that another two companies would be deployed on border protection duty as part of Operation Corona, but the minister will be engaging Treasury to find a way to fund this. At the moment there are 13 companies (around 2 000 soldiers) are currently deployed along all South Africa’s landward borders – Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
The South African Air Force is currently re-establishing 10 Squadron, its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron. Masondo said that UAVs are force multipliers and looks forward to utilising them “to be more effective in our operations.”