The SANDF is keeping its cards close to the chest regarding its contribution to the United Nations sanctioned intervention brigade for the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The official line given by Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, Director: Corporate Communications states that: “The SANDF will deploy in the DRC as part of the UN resolution wherein all troop contributing countries were requested to assist.
“The actual deployment is planned for the end of April and the SANDF will not communicate the strength and equipment thereof as this may compromise security.”
International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing earlier this week that decisions as to the actual number of troops and equipment that will go to the DRC as part of the UN intervention brigade would be made by the SANDF and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nquakula’s Ministry of Defence and Military Veterans.
With SAAF assets, including third generation Gripen fighter jets and Rooivalk combat support helicopters, having been spotted in Ndola (Zambia) and Kinshasa (DRC) recently, military watchers and analysts see them potentially being utilised in the new DRC intervention.
Previous SAAF Chief, Lieutenant General Carlo Gagiano, is on record as saying the Rooivalk would be his first choice for deployment in continental peacekeeping, peace support or peace enforcement operations. This after the locally designed and manufactured rotary-winged gunship underwent extensive modifications changing it into an effective combat support helicopter. It was originally designed as a tank buster for use during the Bush War.
The Gripens seen at Zambia’s Ndola airport were carrying long range tanks and IRIS-T air-to-air missiles.
It is believed at least some SANDF soldiers stationed at Goma in the eastern DRC as part of the UN MONUSCO force will join the new intervention brigade. Other South African elements, yet to be announced by the SANDF, are expected to be airlifted to DRC later this month in anticipation of the intervention brigade forming up.
There is, as yet, no indication of who will be in charge of the new force but Nkoana-Mashabane said it would be good to have “a local” as commander.
Rules of engagement for the new intervention brigade have also not been made public yet but with a mandate apparently meant to seek out and engage the M23 rebel group they should be markedly different from those under which UN mandated forces have operated in Africa to date.
Changes to operating orders will not affect the SANDF. Mabanga said South African troops would always “be ready to execute any task assigned to them”.