The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) memorial wall, unveiled last month on International UN Peacekeepers Day, currently carries 55 names, dating from September 2003.
The date, SANF spokesman Colonel Louis Kirstein said, marks the first time South Africa was involved in a UN peacekeeping and/or peace support mission in Africa.
“As it presently stands the wall is purely to commemorate soldiers and other military personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice while on UN deployment.”
The first name on the wall is that of Sergeant TLR Bailie who died on 3 September 2003, the same year South Africa first committed troops and equipment to the world body. South Africa currently only has troops and equipment deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the MONUSCO mission, the single largest UN peacekeeping deployment in the world. South Africa was previously part of the UN mission in Sudan based at Darfur.
Of the 55 names on the memorial wall, 27 are infantry with the rank of rifleman appearing most often. Other ranks represented are lance corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, warrant officer and captain.
There is, at present, no indication from the SANDF on whether South African soldiers who died on duty in, among others, the battle for Bangui in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013 and Operation Boleas as part of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) force to stop violence in Lesotho in 1998, will be given similar honours.
Kirstein stressed the memorial wall at the De Brug mobilisation centre was only to honour soldiers who died on UN deployment.
“It is possible other sections might be added in future to include other operations and deployments, but no decision has yet been taken on this.”
Since the establishment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), South Africa has been involved in a large number of peacekeeping operations. These contributions have resulted in 80 fatalities, both combat and non-combat related. These deaths cover operations in Lesotho, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
The single biggest loss of life suffered by South African forces deployed continentally since democracy was the ill-fated Battle for Bangui in the Central African Republic in March 2013 where 15 elite soldiers were killed and a further 27 wounded in a vicious firefight that saw the deaths of several hundred Seleka rebels.
South Africa is a contributor to UN and AU peacekeeping missions, with annual contributions fluctuating between 1 500 and 2 500 members. Since democracy numerous peacekeeping deployments have been undertaken, including operations Mistral, Sunray and Teutonic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Operation Espresso on the Eritrea-Ethiopia border; Operation Fibre in Burundi; Operation Triton in the Comoros; Operation Montego in Liberia; Operation Cordite in Darfur; Operation Pristine in Cote D’Ivoire; Operation Vimbizela in the Central African Republic (CAR); Operation Bongane in Uganda; Operation Rachel in Mozambique;and Operation Manguzi in Angola, Lesotho and Namibia.