A series of letters from President Jacob Zuma to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence has extended South African National Defence Force’s deployments in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) until March 31 next year.
Zuma, in a latter dated July 19, said he had extended the employment of 100 personnel “for a service in fulfillment of the international obligations of the Republic of South Africa towards the CAR to assist with capacity building of the CAR defence force.”
Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla told last year’s defenceWeb Peacekeeping Africa 2010 conference that SA during March 2007 responded to a request from the CAR to render assistance with training as well as with the refurbishing of some of the training facilities. Operation Vimbezela was the result and comprises primarily training and engineer personnel. In February last year some 33 soldiers were deployed in the CAR. In August the figure was 41.
The president also extended the deployment of an 11-member capacity building specialist advisory team in the DRC. The Operation Teutonic team’s “mission in the DRC is not yet completed,” Zuma advised.
Makwetla reminded that Teutonic followed from the signing of an agreement between Belgium, the DRC and SA in January 2005. “The primary aim of this deployment, under command of Brigadier General Abel Nelwamondo, was to assist with the security sector reform of the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) by providing assistance with the identification and registration process.
“Operation Teutonic was expanded later in 2005 (Teutonic II) with the deployment of additional personnel to the Eastern DRC to facilitate the refurbishing of the “brassage centres” (training centres) at Rumangabo and Nyaleki. The SANDF also became involved with the upgrading of the FARDC Military Hospital, situated at Goma. SANDF personnel involved in these refurbishing operations were deployed along with a fixed wing aircraft and crew from the SAAF. The tasks of Teutonic II were completed in September 2006 and forces returned to South Africa after handing over these refurbished centres to the Congolese.
“Teutonic I, now under command of Captain (SA Navy) Sonica van Rooyen, the first female South African mission commander, carried on with its activities in pursuance of peace and stability in the region and on the Continent. Support to the security sector reform in the DRC was elevated to a new level with the appointment and deployment of a Project Officer, Brigadier General Koos Liebenberg, and his support staff during January 2006. They were withdrawn from the DRC during October 2007 and replaced by a senior Advisory Team, under command of Major General Duma Mdutyana. Teutonic I (currently 15 members) is still in the DRC, conducting integration of forces. It is however expected that the operation will terminate before the end of 2010.”
Zuma also extended the deployment of a 12-person Project Thebe team, tasked with the training of the DRC Armed Forces’ Rapid Reaction Force. A Department of Defence briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Defence in January 2009 regarding its 2008 Annual Report put the cost of Thebe at R9.142 million for the 2007/8 financial year. The same report put the cost of Vimbezela at R81.386 million for that year.