Come year-end the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will have 4 500 soldiers deployed on active duty, both internally and externally, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The bulk of those deployed will be part of Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking that sees soldiers taking on an almost dual role. On one hand they, in most instances with more than a modicum of success, keep undocumented foreigners from entering South Africa and, on the other, they confiscate stolen goods, stop goods from entering South Africa illegally and generally perform a policing function.
There are 15 companies, mainly infantry with SA Army Reserve Force units contributing to Corona, deployed along South Africa’s landward borders.
The Department of Defence said that as a sovereign state, South Africa has a duty to safeguard its borders against the possibility of transnational crime, international crime syndicates and cartels, the illegal flow of undocumented migrants, and illicit economic activities. Over the medium term, the Department will deploy 15 sub-units along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. For this purpose, R3.1 billion is allocated for this over the next three years in the Force Employment programme.
The remainder of the military personnel, in the region of 2 600, find themselves in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as part of the UN’s single largest peacekeeping and peace support mission – MONUSCO. Eight hundred and fifty of these, along with Southern African Development community (SADC) compatriots from Malawi and Tanzania, form the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), the first UN component ever to have an offensive mandate when it comes to protection of civilians in its theatre of operations.
“The bulk of the SANDF elements deployed as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern parts of the DRC and selected specialist SANDF elements, amongst other, military observers and staff officers, are deployed in and around the capital city of Kinshasa,” the Department of Defence said in its most recent Performance Plan. An amount of R3.3 billion is provided over the next three years in the Force Employment programme for activities related to peace support operations.
The 4 500 troops deployed at year-end will all receive a gift as part of the SANDF goodwill parcel project. Their families at home over the festive season without a breadwinner also benefit in the form of a seasonal hamper to ensure at least some holiday cheer. The hamper part of the project is co-ordinated by the SANDF Spouses Forum.
Mapisa-Nqakula on Friday officially launched the 2018 iteration of the goodwill parcel project in Pretoria with a dozen sponsors present. They are Mpact, Sanlam, Old Mutual, SA Army Foundation, Avbob, Mintirho ya Vulavula, Promasidor, Huletts, Anchor Yeast, Umkhombe Marine, SA Military Health Service Fund and Unilever.