Tragic loss in the DRC: Honouring South African peacekeepers

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In a heart-wrenching incident, yet again, two young brave members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have lost their lives while serving on a peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community Mission in the DRC (SAMIDRC).

These fallen soldiers, embodying the spirit of courage and commitment, paid the ultimate sacrifice in their quest to bring peace and stability to a troubled region. As we mourn their loss, it is imperative that we, as South Africans, come together to support the men and women of the SANDF and ensure they have the resources they need to carry out their critical missions safely and effectively.

The peacekeeping mission in the DRC is fraught with challenges, including volatile regional security conditions, complex political landscapes, difficult terrain, and what seems to be inadequate or unfit-for-purpose prime mission equipment for the South African contingent. Despite these obstacles, our soldiers have stood firm against, especially, the rampaging March 23 (M23) rebels on many occasions, demonstrating unwavering dedication to their duty and to the ideals of peace and security. The recent loss of two soldiers, which follows after the loss of 39 year-old Sergeant Mbulelo David Ngubane on 30 May in the DRC, is a stark reminder of the dangers the troops face daily and underscores the urgent need for robust support systems and adequate resourcing.

The SANDF has long been a source of national pride, playing a pivotal role not only in regional stability but also in humanitarian efforts and disaster response. However, for too long, our soldiers have been sent into harm’s way without the benefit of state-of-the-art military equipment. It is crucial that we address this shortfall to honour the memory of those we have lost and to protect those who continue to serve.

State-of-the-art equipment, including advanced close air support for ground forces, is not a luxury—it is a necessity. Modern military operations demand high-tech solutions to effectively counter the myriad of threats our soldiers face. Close air support provides critical protection and can make the difference between life and death in combat situations. It is a glaring gap in our current capabilities that must be urgently addressed.

As citizens, we have a role to play. We must support our troops not only in spirit but also by advocating for the resources they need. This means putting pressure on our government to prioritise military funding and ensure that the SANDF is equipped with the best military technology available that will enable our soldiers to carry out their missions safely and successfully.

In the wake of this tragedy, let us honour the fallen soldiers by committing to real change, change that must ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain and that future missions are conducted with the highest standards of safety and effectiveness. The time for action is now. Let us rally behind our troops, demand better resourcing, and stand united in support of the SANDF.

Their mission is our mission. Their safety is our responsibility. Let us not fail them.

Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Baliwinile Kwankwa (SA Army Intelligence Corps) writes in his personal capacity.