Modise confident National Treasury will fund SAMIDRC deployment

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has confirmed that the current budget does not provide funding for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) contingent serving with the SADC Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC), but an allocation will be made in future budgets.

She revealed this on 28 February while answering questions in Parliament during a National Assembly plenary session.

When asked if South Africa is using the 2023/24 budget for the latest deployment to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), of up to 2 900 soldiers until mid-December at a cost of R2.371 billion, Modise said: “You will currently not find a specific budget item for the amount for the deployment in the DRC…I think that in the coming budget you will see a budget line that will say how much we will be expending. I must also say that we are expecting that we will be given an allocation on this current deployment.”

Modise added that the Department of Defence is raising the funding issue with National Treasury and The Presidency.

She explained that the SANDF initially went into the DRC under the United Nation’s MONUSCO umbrella, and was to a large extent being reimbursed by the UN for troops and equipment deployed there. Now South Africa is fulfilling its obligations to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in pursuit of peace and stability in the DRC.

The SAMIDRC force will comprise 5 000 troops from South Africa, Malawi, and Tanzania, with South Africa providing the majority 2 900 under Operation Thiba.

“There is no ANC interest in the DRC. Our interest is peace. Throughout the continent. We are not making money in the DRC,” she said. “We are there because we are part of not only SADC but we have always in Africa pushed for the silencing of the guns.”

Responding to a Democratic Alliance assertion that the South African government is responsible for the deaths of two SANDF soldiers killed in a mortar attack in the DRC this month, Modise said such an accusation is “low”.

“Do we regret that we have sent our people there? No, we don’t. Do we regret the loss of lives? We mourn the passing of our children. I received the corpses. I sit with those families,” Modise said. “In war, sometimes there is loss of life. We regret that. We want to make sure nothing ever happens. We have taken steps that those soldiers who are right there right now are able to withstand any pressure that they will be put to.”

“My job is to make sure our troops are well looked after and get what they need to get,” Modise told the National Assembly. “Since last week the DRC government has gone out of its way that it acquires for its own defence force that which it needs to finish its business. We on the other hand ensure that whatever equipment our sons and daughters need in the DRC has been shipped. Not all that they need has gone; they will get what they need to get.”

Modise acknowledged that the SANDF’s prime mission equipment has been “compromised by the lack of maintenance over the years,” and so a review of the 2015 Defence Review is being carried out, and there are plans to acquire more equipment.

Criticism has been levelled at the Department of Defence for not having enough serviceable Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters to support deployed forces. Modise said, “It is not true that the Rooivalk and Oryx and so on are unfixable…I have been running around the world and I can tell you that as soon as we get the money not only the Rooivalk will be upgraded,” but ships will be maintained and offshore patrol vessels will be bought. The SA Navy is also in the process of receiving a third inshore patrol vessel from Damen Shipyards Cape Town.

“We have the plan and that plan will come to the committee,” Modise said.