The SA Army has dozens of personnel training overseas and has taken part in several multinational exercises this year, according to its Chief, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam.
Speaking at a media briefing earlier this month, he said the Army continues to embark on skills development programmes for its members, including training overseas. “Our foreign military diplomatic relations afforded us the opportunity to send 30 members on foreign learning opportunities in countries including Cuba, the United States, Britain and Pakistan. We also managed to enrol 24 Public Service Act Personnel members through study at state expense to various institutions; 34 members were enrolled in skills development courses and 62 members were enrolled in the Compulsory Induction Programme,” Yam said.
He was proud to announce the South African Army was represented at the Russian International Military Games held over the period 19 July to 11 August 2018 “and the team performed marvellously well in the competition.” An SA Army team recently returned from Pakistan where they took part in military sports activities and finished fifth out of 19 participating countries.
South Africa and Nigeria enjoy strong defence ties and a sign of this was the Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai’s visit to South Africa in January and Yam’s subsequent visit to Nigeria. Yam said “our bilateral ties with the Nigerians are showing signs of success,” with Nigeria showing interest in South African intelligence gathering capabilities, among others. When the Chief of Intelligence of the Nigerian Army visited South Africa he showed interest in South Africa’s landward equipment as well as surveillance systems, border patrol systems and radio communications.
Nigerian military personnel have been trained by South African Special Forces and recently were deployed in north-east Nigeria to combat Boko Haram terrorists.
“We will continue to strengthen military relations with our African counterparts,” Yam said, adding South Africa has been participating in Exercise Umodzi, a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force command post exercise. This was hosted by Malawi, at the Malawi Armed Forces College in Selima, from 1 to 18 October.
South Africa recently took part in Exercise Utilivu IV, a command post exercise for the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) force, held in Uganda between 23 August and 11 September.
Regarding international deployments, Yam noted the South African Army has a Battalion headquarters with three companies including a specialised company from 44 Parachute Regiment taking part in Operational Mistral – South Africa’s contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Due to the United States reducing funding for the UN, the peacekeeping body has asked for 50 of South Africa’s troops to return home. Yam said he is not happy about this, but talks are underway with the United Nations and Southern African Development Community on the matter.
Internally, Yam said the South African Army will be supporting peaceful national elections in 2019 and, through Operation Prosper, will be providing support through companies from 15 SA Infantry (SAI) in Limpopo, 21 SAI in Gauteng, 4 SAI in Mpumalanga, 121 SAI in KwaZulu-Natal, 14 SAI in Eastern Cape, 9 SAI in Western Cape, 1 SAI in Free State, 8 SAI in Northern Cape and 10 SAI in North West.
Yam also noted the South African Army has 15 companies deployed on border protection duty under Operation Corona and this year achieved major successes including the apprehension in the last six months of some 15 000 undocumented travellers; the confiscation of contraband worth millions of rand as well as drugs, illegal firearms and stolen vehicles.
Regarding youth development and training, Yam said the SA Army provides support to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform towards the Youth Leadership Development Programme (YLDP). Between April and July this year, 781 people were trained in different provinces, including 109 at Thaba Nchu NARYSEC College in the Free State; 273 at Air Defence Artillery School and 399 at 3 SA Infantry Battalion in the Norther Cape.
The SA Army also presented a Youth Service Training Programme (YSTP) between 28 February and 12 July at 6 SA Infantry Battalion, Grahamstown. 391 people were trained. “The SA Army was responsible for command and control and presented the character-building phase, which included buddy aid, physical training, leadership, drill, survival skills, civic education and military security,” Yam said.