Outgoing C SANDF says UN mission influenced by SA troops


Outgoing Chief of the South African National Defence Force (CSANDF) General Godfrey Ngwenya says not only has South African contributed greatly to peacekeeping operations on the African continent, but actually changed the way the United Nations (UN) approaches peacekeeping.

During his farewell speech at the Thaba Tshwane Military Sports Grounds in Pretoria, General Ngwenya said: “In 2001, when President Nelson Mandela ordered the SANDF into action in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), many doubted our ability to succeed. Many were sceptical as to whether South Africa had the ability to undertake Peace Support Operations of such magnitude. At that time the UN attitude was not to get involved in peace support operations where there was no ceasefire. This was the case in Burundi when the SANDF deployed.”

The UN, according to the Burundi Peacekeeping Mission website, ONUB, said it first sent its own troops under a Security Council Mandate into Burundi on 1 June, 2004. The ONUB mission was led by South African Major General Denis Mgwebi. Ngwenya added: “Soon after two years when we had been working on our own and the light began to shine at the end of the tunnel, the UN changed its attitude and got involved in the Burundi mission. The SANDF must take credit for the work done in that country to bring peace and stability,” he said.

Not all was good news: The outgoing Chief said of the repeated cuts in the defence budget: “The budgetary constraint has imposed a limit on the force levels that we would have loved to deploy.”

The new CSANDF, General Solly Shoke’s, CV was read out to the audience. Shoke (pictured) is the proud wearer of the Order of Mendi for bravery. The order was awarded by the president for his time as a fighter for Umkhonto we Sizwe during the Liberation Struggle leading the “G 5” unit. The award was given to fulfil a desire expressed by the late Oliver Tambo that this unit should be the first to be recognised. Importantly, Shoke was a key negotiator during the transition period.

Shoke held various key positions in the new SANDF and commanded the SADC forces mission, Operation Boleas, in Lesotho in 1998 to prevent a coup d’état.

The Change of Command ceremony was preceded a Special Forces and 7 Medical Battalion Group parachute drop, a 17-gun salute and a Salute Flight, with two AgustaWestland A109 helicopters flying the national and Joint Operations flags followed by a Rooivalk.

A brigade-sized march past representing all four services was accompanied by a combined-arms Mass Band Troop. The outgoing and incoming Chiefs inspected the parade from the backs of Land Rovers, followed by the General Salute by the SANDF members on parade and flights of aircraft, both fixed-wing and helicopters.

Flying over in waves, the formation included a Rooivalk, A109 and Denel Oryx helicopters, with the highlights being the Saab Gripen five ship formation which performed a spectacular break and the Silver Falcons Aerobatic team which continued to circle the grounds throughout. A nice touch was a salute flag to outgoing General Ngwenya flown by an Agusta.