The senior officer overseeing the deployments and use of South Africa’s military assets – ranging from riflemen on the ground to pilots flying high-tech fighter jets and sailors at the helm and aboard warships – SA National Defense Force (SADF) is currently responsible for seven operations, told a parliamentary oversight committee this week.
Three – operations Copper, Mistral and Vikela – are continental, with four – Arabella, Chariot, Corona and Prosper – internal, informed the chief parliamentarians of the Division of joint operations, Lieutenant-General Siphiwe Sangweni.
Op Copper considers SA Navy (SAN) platforms and SA Air Force (SAAF) assets deployed in and over the Mozambique Channel as key elements of a bloc anti-piracy mission regional. Its main objective, according to Sangweni’s presentation, is the promotion of maritime safety through regular patrols.
âThe operation is currently on hold due to the deployment of the Op Vikela SAN, capacity issues and SAN shortcomings,â he said, adding that âsome operational objectives have been met and encompassed under the ‘Op Vikela’.
Op Mistral is the oldest field deployment and sees elements of the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army and SA Military Health Service in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the part of the largest United Nations peacekeeping mission – MONUSCO. South Africa’s current engagement sees SANDF personnel attached to the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in terms of an infantry battalion, a tactical intelligence unit (TIU), a unit of composite helicopters piloting Oryx medium transport and Rooivalk combat support rotorcraft, as well as what the three-star general referred to as the âSANDF Specialist Contingentâ.
The South African deployment to the DRC will be added early next year when a Rapid Reaction Force (QRF) partners with the FIB. Four QRFs are planned for a faster response to incidents in terms of the brigade’s offensive mandate to protect Congolese civilians from rebel groups.
At present, the 15th South African Infantry Battalion is relieved in the DRC by the 21st SA Infantry Battalion while the specialized contingent and the helicopter unit will be replaced in January / February 2022.
Vikela, the code name for South Africa’s involvement in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), has so far seen maritime elements and forces specials in this East African country.
South Africa’s rapid deployment capability in Mozambique is extended until at least January with a possible follow-up deployment in terms of a multidimensional peacekeeping framework.
Parliamentarians heard that SAMIM forces have made a positive difference to the security situation in northern parts of Mozambique. âThe deployment has brought a degree of normalcy back to the affected areas and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are returning to their homes. Terrorist units have been dislodged from bases and strongholds in Mocimboa da Praia and Palma are now under the control of government forces. Elements of the SANDF force are at the forefront and direct the conduct of offensive operations, âSangweni’s presentation said.
Internally, operations Arabella for aeronautical and maritime search and rescue, Chariot for humanitarian aid and disaster management and Prosper, which cooperate and assist the police in carrying out their main duty of fighting crime are In progress. Although Operation Chariot has primarily seen disaster relief activities such as firefighting, it is helping distribute COVID-19 vaccines across South Africa.
Operation Vimba is the contribution of the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) to the Gauteng Department of Health’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country’s most populous and economically active province.
Operation Notlela, SANDF’s contribution to the national COVID-19 effort, is not mentioned in the three-star general’s presentation. He first saw soldiers and other servicemen deployed to enforce disaster state regulations through city patrols and roadblocks. These were reduced as restrictions relaxed, but a military presence remained visible in the government’s overall coronavirus effort.
Internal operations are a constant in SANDF planning documentation and continue as Cabinet requests and approval with President Cyril Ramaphosa, as SANDF Commander-in-Chief, briefing Parliament of what he calls the âemploymentâ of SANDF assets and resources.
The latest internal operation is the border protection mission Corona returned to SANDF 10 years ago when the SA Police Service (SAPS) “begged”.
Corona will currently and for the foreseeable future see 15 companies, mostly infantry, deployed along South Africa’s land borders to prevent illegal immigration, stop smugglers and “create a deterrent against possible threats of illegal immigration. ‘foreign aggression across the international border’.