South Africa’s withdrawal from the hybrid AU/UN peace support mission in Sudan last month was because the Sudanese government had made it “increasingly difficult” for proper logistic support to be provided to deployed soldiers.
This is according to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who told MPs during her budget vote in Parliament this week that this contributed to “making it impossible for our forces to protect the women and children of that country”.
“As a result a decision was taken to withdraw from UNAMID with effect from April 1. The force will not be replaced. A team of logistic experts will manage the withdrawal of remaining SANDF assets and equipment over a six month period.”
The approxiimately 800 South African soldiers who were the final South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployment in Sudan flew back to South Africa aboard UN chartered aircraft on April 23, 25 and 27. They landed at AFB Bloemspruit before being debriefed at the nearby De Brug mobilisation centre and then returned to their home unit – 8 SA Infantry Battalion.
The South African troops have been replaced by Pakistani and Sudanese elements to ensure continuity of operations in Darfur. South Africa has been part of UNAMID since its establishment at the beginning of 2008 as a successor to the AMIS, the then African Union mission in Sudan.
Both full-time and Reserve Force units of the SANDF have been deployed to the east African country for periods of up to 12 months. President Jacob Zuma, Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, announced the withdrawal from Sudan in February.
Mapisa-Nqakula briefed the National Assembly on other SANDF deployments, such as the SA Navy’s continued patrolling of the Mozambique Channel in conjunction with the SA Air Force (SAAF) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) counter-piracy tasking, Operation Copper.
“Since the deployment of naval assets in the Mozambique Channel no further incidents of piracy have been reported. Nevertheless, we are mindful of developing challenges in the Gulf of Guinea and have entered into discussions with the Namibian and Angolan governments to pursue joint maritime patrols along the west coast.”
Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking, now sees 15 companies deployed along South Africa’s landward borders.
“This,” Mapisa-Nqakula said, “is still short of the 22 companies stipulated in the National Security Strategy. Despite the shortfall the SANDF achieved major successes during the past financial year. Reserves currently contribute more the half the forces deployed along the borders”.