SA Army Chief, Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo, has shed light on South Africa’s contribution to the African Union peacekeeping initiative known as the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).
Speaking during the Exercise Seboka open day at the army Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape he said the landward element of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) would contribute a motorised infantry battalion (9 SA Infantry Battalion), a composite armoured car squadron from 1 Special Service Battalion and 1 SA Infantry Battalion, a light artillery battery (1 Light Artillery Regiment), an air-mobile anti-aircraft battery (10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment), a composite signal squadron drawn from 1, 2 and 5 Signal regiments and sub-sub-units from 2 Field Engineer Regiment and 1 Tactical Intelligence Regiment.
The SA Air Force’s (SAAF) involvement in the ACIRC force will see a mobile air operations team (MAOT), two Gripen jets (referred to by Masondo as “attack aircraft”), a pair of C-130BZ transports, two Rooivalk combat support helicopters as well as a pair each of Oryx and Agusta A-109 helicopters.
“The SA Navy adds to the fold a boat squadron and accompanying marines and support elements while SA Military Health Services will provide the entire force with a medical task group and a level two hospital.
“Finally, the SA Military Police will also contribute a platoon bringing the total strength of the force to in excess of 1 500,” Masondo said.
According to him the SANDF has incorporated lessons learnt from its previous operations on the continent – the ill-fated Battle for Bangui on the debit side and the UN Forward Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the DRC on the credit side – “to bolster maintenance of African peace and security efforts. We will continue to push the envelope in terms of what can be achieved and what is possible in the African conflict resolution space”.
He said the four week-long long exercise had seen those taking part prepared to the “highest levels and standards of tactical efficiency”.
“They have the ability to executive all foreseen tasks as listed by the African Union and will be able to cope with any of the scenarios listed.”
Echoing his chief, Brigadier General Lawrence Smith, General Officer Commanding 43 SA Brigade (the exercise headquarters unit), told Johannesburg daily The Times Seboka 2014 was “beyond peacekeeping”.
“This is the biggest challenge we are going into. We have drummed into the troops they will not be deployed into anything but crises and very bad ones – genocides, gross human rights violations and total breakdown of societies after natural disasters.
“The training we are giving is totally different from what troops have received before.
“Lessons learnt in CAR have seen us training a robust fighting force for rural, urban, conventional and unconventional warfare,” Smith said.
A final declaration on the combat readiness of the ACIRC force is expected before year-end.