South African soldiers earmarked to wear blue UN helmets as part of the world’s body first ever intervention brigade have not gone to the DRC yet.
Department of Defence head of communications, Siphiwe Dlamini, dismissed as “pure speculation” reports that a 1 300-strong contingent of soldiers from 6 SA Infantry battalion supported by elements from Special Forces, paratroopers and engineers had flown to Goma at the weekend.
“The movement was a normal rotation of the UN’s MONUSCO mission in the DRC,” he said in response to questions.
He would also not be drawn on the composition of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) component of the UN intervention brigade.
“The composition and details of components or elements which will comprise the SANDF battalion going to be part of the intervention brigade is something we will not discuss in the media. We view such disclosure as a compromise to the safety and security of SANDF personnel.
“We see no reason why detailed information about our planning and preparedness is needed unless it is to empower the rebels in their planning on how to counter us,” he said.
The more than 3 000 strong brigade will be commanded by Tanzanian Brigadier James Mwakibolwa, and will comprise Malawian, South African and Tanzanian troops. It is anticipated it will be fully operational by September to start execution of its offensive operations mandate against armed groups threatening peace in particularly the eastern parts of the DRC. This is generally viewed as being the M23 rebel group.
Deployment of the brigade, the first for the world body in more than 65 years of peacekeeping operations to be given an offensive mandate, was authorised by the UN in March.