Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula used her post State of the Nation briefing opportunity to enlighten South Africans on peacekeeping and post conflict reconstruction efforts undertaken by their soldiers.
The focus of her address in Cape Town was on the missions and deployments undertaken by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in support of government’s foreign policy goal of “creating a better South Africa and contributing to a better and safer Africa in a better world” since democracy in 1994.
The briefing comes six weeks after Jacob Zuma, the Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force, delivered the Presidential State of the Nation address to Parliament on February 13.
Nowhere in her prepared statement, a copy of which has been posted by the Government Communications and Information System on its website, does Mapisa-Nqakula mention either the Defence Review or its recent approval by Cabinet or the new Armscor chairman and board of directors appointed by her.
“Africa remains at the centre of South African foreign policy and the growth and success of the South African economy is dependent on enduring peace, stability, economic development and deepened democracy on the continent. We believe, as an integral part of the African continent, we must develop together with our neighbours on the continent. As a beneficiary of many acts of selfless solidarity in the past, we strongly believe what we wish for our people should be what we wish for the citizens of our continent and the world,” she said.
South Africa has been and remains a “major contributor” to peacekeeping operations in Africa.
“Since 1994 South Africa has played a leading role in regional and continental efforts to maintaining and upholding of the rule of law, to assist rebuilding efforts in countries previously in conflict, by providing training, peacekeeping and integration of statutory and non-statutory forces,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
The first South African involvement in continental peacekeeping efforts saw an SANDF colonel deployed as a liaison officer in the DRC in September 1999. He was tasked with assisting the then UN Mission in the DRC, MONUC, now known as MONUSCO, in efforts to stop conflict in the still strife-torn country.
“Today the SANDF’s presence in the DRC in support of the UN mission (Operation Mistral) consists of three military observers, 25 staff officers and a contingent of 1 345 personnel including the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB). The formation of the FIB by the UN Resolution 2098 is to neutralise, disarm and prevent expansion all armed groups in the eastern parts of the Congo. This has tilted the balance of power in the Eastern DRC towards MONUSCO and FARDC – as result M23 was dislodged and defeated. The Rooivalk combat support helicopter was deployed for the first time and played a pivotal role in the demise of [the] M23 rebel armed group in the Eastern DRC.”
South Africa’s second African mission was Operation Espresso. This started in December 2000 after the former organisation for African Unity (OAU), now the AU, brokered a cessation of hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Other missions in Africa the SANDF has been tasked with by government include Operation Fibre (Burundi), Operation Triton (five times in the Comoros), Operation Amphibian (Rwanda), Operation Montego (Liberia), Operation Cordite (Sudan), Operation Teutonic and Operation Bulisa (both DRC), Operation Pristine (Ivory Coast), Operation Vimbezela (CAR) and Operation Bongane (Uganda).
Mapisa-Nqakula warned the SANDF will “increasingly” become involved in peacekeeping missions as South Africa “continues to deploy in conflict-ridden countries on our continent”.
“We do so with the conviction that Africa will one day enjoy peace and stability.”