SANDF contributed to making South Africa a better place – Minister

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In addition to anti-piracy, border protection and continental peace support and peacekeeping, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) also performed firefighting duties and search and rescue operations internally in the 2013/14 financial year.

This is according to the foreword, provided by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to the latest Department of Defence annual report for the 2013/14 financial year.
“In terms of support to the people, the SANDF provided assistance with firefighting in Western Cape and Northern Cape, search and rescue at sea and on land in Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Support was also provided during floods in Limpopo and Mpumalanga by airlifting people to safety.”

As far as the availability of SA Air Force (SAAF) helicopters to assist in firefighting operations in Western Cape is concerned, that province’s legislature was in October last year told that military helicopters would not be available. Provincial Local Government, Environment Affairs and Development Planning Minister, Anton Bredell, said at the time he was “worried” about the national government’s ability to help the Western Cape provincial government when it came to firefighting.

There were also indications that Durban-based 15 Squadron had seen funds allocated for search and rescue moved to VIP transport. Afrikaans daily Beeld reported the squadron, regularly involved in both mountain and sea rescue, was spending more hours on VIP duties flying between King Shaka International Airport and Nkandla.

As part of government’s over-arching “good story to tell” campaign which started running ahead of the May elections, Mapisa-Nqakula said the SANDF achieved “a lot” in pursuit of its legislative mandate to make South Africa a better place to live in.

Among achievements in this regards she mentions the return of soldiers to the border protection tasking and participation in “prominent and internationally recognised peace support operations”. These, according to her, include the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the hybrid AU/UN mission in Sudan and peace support operations in Burundi. The SANDF is currently deployed to the DRC and Sudan but withdrew from Burundi many years ago.

On combatting piracy the Minister noted the increased rate of piracy in the Mozambique Channel saw a SADC (Southern African Development Community) maritime security strategy developed and implemented. “Consequently the SANDF (SA Air Force and SA Navy) was deployed in the Mozambique Channel to counter acts of piracy and related maritime crime”.

According to the European Union’s Operation Atalanta there have been no incidents of piracy off the east coast of Africa this year or the previous one and not a single vessel is currently in the hands of pirates.

Mapisa-Nqakula also notes in her foreword that five general military assistance and capacity building operations were undertaken during the period under review. These were to the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).