SA military expenditure in DR Congo totals R2 billion plus in four years

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South African commitments to continental peacekeeping as part of government’s foreign policy falls squarely on the shoulders of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and has seen more than R2 billion spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the 2019/20 financial year.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is reimbursed for this expenditure by the United Nations (UN) as it is a troop and equipment contributing country to the UN mission in the central African country. Reimbursements for Operation Mistral – and any other UN missions South Africa was and could be involved in – are based on the level of serviceability of equipment and readiness of troops deployed to MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo.

One instance defenceWeb is aware of was no reimbursement for elements of the SA Army Engineer Formation sent to the DR Congo some years ago and tasked with water purification. Equipment did not perform as advertised. This saw the Sappers and their equipment withdrawn and no payment due to equipment not being serviceable.

The national defence force and its parent body, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV), carry all costs associated with Op Mistral deployments. Reimbursement is made to Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s National Treasury a year after claims are submitted to UN headquarters in New York.

The “reward” – if it can be termed that – for carrying the financial can sees the UN reimbursement make its way into the DoD financial department via National Treasury appropriation in the adjustment budget process the year after the claim was settled by the world body.

The only other continental deployment the SANDF is presently part of is the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) under the Operation Vikela banner.

Now in its second year, SAMIM will for 2022/23 see R210.3 million paid to the South African National Treasury by the African Union (AU), according to an SANDF presentation to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD). In its first year of deployment to SAMIM, SANDF elements incurred, again as per the presentation, R33.3 million in expenses.

In terms of payment from what the presentation states are “other government entities,” General Rudzani Maphwanya’s SANDF has supplied personnel and equipment to at least four departments/services.

They are the SA Police Service (SAPS) for the basic police development learning programme at 3 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion in Kimberley; National Rural Youth Service Corps programme; erecting low-cost bridges for the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and “cleaning” the Vaal River, a task handed to the SA Army Engineer Formation that saw full-time and reserve force Sappers deployed to deal with leaking sewerage and other issues. Other government department/“entity” taskings mentioned in the presentation, but not detailed, are “assisting with water purification” and providing “guard duties”.

Among payments received at the DoD Finance Division in the Armscor building are R150 million plus from the SAPS for “developmental training and veterinary service” and R142 million from the Department of Military Veterans (DMV) for “medical assistance and salaries for seconded DoD officials”.

Outstanding is over R91 million from the DPWI for 23 bridges erected in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and a far lesser amount of close to half a million Rand owed by the Gauteng provincial health department for “outsourced services” to two provincial hospitals.