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Wednesday, 03 April 2024 12:34

SANDF dismisses claims soldiers surrendered to M23 rebels in DRC.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has dismissed reports claiming that two South African soldiers deployed as part of the Southern African Development Community Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC) have surrendered to M23 rebels.

A media report on National Security News posted on social media platforms stated that several SA soldiers had surrendered.

The report, written by a Washington DC correspondent, said: "Several South African soldiers deployed by the ANC government in Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an ill-equipped and ill-prepared force reportedly surrendered to the M23 rebels this past week. The soldiers are now reportedly being held as hostages by M23."

It was also reported that more than 600 troops are going without field kitchens, which have not yet been delivered. Meals are currently being prepared on a few gas burners in the open air. No doctors or nurses were deployed with the troops, so they have to depend on the first aid kits. There are no bathrooms or toilet facilities for the 600 soldiers, except for six pit toilets – two reserved for the 40 women in the contingent.

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini rejected the report.

Dlamini said all SANDF members deployed in DRC have been accounted for.

"The convoluted article published by the faceless Washington correspondent is dismissed with the contempt it deserves. This is not the first time such unfounded and baseless news articles have been written about the SANDF since its deployment in DRC under SAMIDRC. The SANDF views such attempts to discredit the defence force in the most serious light by faceless people and will not stand by and allow its good name to be tarnished," Dlamini said.

Political parties has come out swinging against the SANDF deployment with the SADC Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC), calling it another 'disaster' and questioning a lack of support for the troops.

Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, said in a statement that in addition to a lack of refrigerated cargo containers, ablution facilities and other field accommodation equipment, there is no money to pay for supplies.

The DA has written to the Chairpersons of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, requesting that they urgently reconvene the Committee to consider "the operational crisis currently unfolding in the SANDF deployment in the DRC."

Marais wants to know why SANDF leadership authorised the deployment when it was clear that the SANDF logistics division did not have the capacity to deploy operational infrastructure like ablution facilities, medical support, and food preparation equipment.

He also wants the committee to consider whether the continued deployment of the SANDF in the DRC is placing SANDF members at risk and whether a recommendation needs to be made to Parliament to rescind the President's deployment notification.

ActionSA FixSA Member for Defence Mohammed Rafeek Shah requested clarity from Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise on the SAMIDRC deployment.

"The SANDF deployment in the DRC raises some critical questions of serious concern. As a matter of fact, the SANDF is overstretched and underfunded, which has been the case for decades. They are expected to fulfil multiple deployments including peacekeeping roles in the continent in places such as the DRC and Mozambique, while also protecting the territorial integrity of the Republic, including land, air and sea as well as assisting the South African Police Service (SAPS) in crime prevention and other internal situations," Shah stated.

"It has become quite clear that the SANDF does not have the sufficient manpower capacity and the necessary prime mission equipment, as the recent news reports that are highlighting the appalling living and working conditions, let alone the lack of necessary mission equipment including land and air support element, they are failing to provide simple and hygienic living and working conditions as reported in the news recently.

The SAMIDRC force comprise 5 000 troops from South Africa, Malawi, and Tanzania, with South Africa providing the majority 2 900 under Operation Thiba. 

SAMIDRC at present has a 12 month mandate which, according to the South African government, ends on 15 December.

Concerns about SANDF troops having sufficient combat and logistics support were sparked after a 14 February mortar attack by M23 rebels that killed two South African soldiers and injured three more.