South Africa will this year celebrate 10 years of participation in African Union and United Nations peacekeeping, Lt General Themba Matanzima, the Chief of Joint Operations of the SA National Defence Force says.
Speaking at a media briefing on Friday on his division`s activities, Matanzima noted that the first SA peacekeeper, Colonel Hans Swart, deployed to Kampala, Uganda, on 5 September 1999. He was to serve there as a capital liaison officer affiliated to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by its French acronym, Monuc.
“He was SA`s first peacekeeper,” Matanzima said. “We have come from humble beginnings [with] one peacekeeper assigned to one mission to an average of 2800 soldiers per day assigned to seven missions in six countries.
“We are currently the 15th largest contributor to UN missions and also contribute to AU missions and are present in two countries as a result of bilateral agreements,” he added.
Matanzima said a number of activities were planned to mark the occasion as well as the adoption of the White Paper on SA`s participation in peacekeeping operations on 26 February 1999, “ten years ago, almost to the day.”
The SANDF established the Joint Operations Division on 1 August 1997 as the sole executive agent for all operational deployments. The division`s General Officer Commanding the Joint Operational Headquarters, Maj Gen Barney Hlatshwayo, noted in his address to the media that at the time the SANDF only planned to become involved in peacekeeping in 2007. Events dictated otherwise.
Matanzima added that peacekeeping was a vital cog in the continents economic development. “We believe our region can only develop if we continue to create the conditions for people to come invest here.”