More questions on SA’s DR Congo deployment amid further deaths

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Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald maintains the deaths of four South African soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a 15-day period could, at least partially, be laid at the door of “dangerously low” morale.

Referring to two deaths and three wounded in a mortar attack on a SAMIDRC (Southern African Development Community Mission in DRC) base on 14 February and a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel murder/suicide on 29 February, the former Commando officer said details around the incidents were “vague”.

Going on what has been made public by the SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) and Department of Defence (DoD) Head of Communication (HoC), Siphiwe Dlamini, Groenewald noted “if” what was made public is correct, it indicates morale among these soldiers [deployed in DRC] is dangerously low”.

“They do not understand why their lives are being endangered in a conflict that has nothing to do with South Africa,” he said.

Contributors to the perceived low morale range from boots, said as far back as 2018, to be not suitable for ground conditions encountered in the central African country to a lack of aerial cover. While this does not extend to airlift to move soldiers from South Africa to eastern DRC, in one instance pertaining to the SAIMDRC deployment said to be due to aircraft non-availability, defence analysts and observers note South African soldiers deployed continentally use older equipment and are not properly supported.

One example is UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for reconnaissance and intelligence purposes with armed rotorcraft in the form of South Africa’s Rooivalk combat support helicopter to provide top cover for ground forces. The boots issue was addressed at the same time the new work dress was taken into service last year.

Elaborating on the conflict having “nothing to do with South Africa”, Groenewald points to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration advocating peace for Ukraine at the same time as “dragging” Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for perceived genocide against Palestinians as possible contributors to low morale.