South African troops deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a UN peace mission are well prepared, the military said on Friday (30/08/2013).
"We are adequately equipped and we are ready,” SA National Defence Force joint operations chief Lt-Gen Derrick Mgwebi told reporters at the Thaba Tshwane Military base in Pretoria.
He said the United Nations had requested South African authorities to send additional weaponry to the turbulent central African country.
"The artillery battery is coming from Tanzania and it’s already on the ground. [Regarding the helicopters] we were approached, they [UN] looked at what we have, the capabilities [of the Rooivalk attack helicopters] and they were happy,” he said.
"You then have to tell the UN how much it is going to cost them because you don’t want to fly it [the helicopters] on the taxpayer’s account. We are not sending any pieces of artillery but we will send the Rooivalk if the UN agrees.” Mgwebi said the world body had yet to pay for the further deployments it requested.
"They have requested a battalion from us and we have given them [the soldiers]. We [also] have three Oryx helicopters already on the ground,” he said.
"When you give them, it speaks to the issues of reimbursement.
We said ’we give you and you reimburse the country’." He said the UN was required to sign documentation before additional weaponry was sent to the DRC.
"We have said to them we are ready and this is what it is going to mean to you [financially] as the UN, the rates. The ball is in their court, not in South Africa’s,” said Mgwebi.
He said the UN had not requested South Africa to send Gripen fighter jets to the DRC.
"My understanding of the UN as an organisation and looking at the threat on the ground, does the M23 and all those negative forces warrant a Gripen? The answer is ’no’,” said Mgwebi ”We have never been approached to provide anything which looks like a Gripen. We are not considering [sending] the Gripen.” Mgwebi said it was not clear when South African soldiers would be returning home.
Last week, President Jacob Zuma informed Parliament that 1345 soldiers had been deployed to the DRC as part of the UN Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in the eastern DRC.
The deployment of the FIB followed the passing of a UN resolution in March authorising a force to intervene in cases where negative forces threatened people’s lives and property in the east of the DRC.
Zuma said on Thursday that no South African soldiers had been critically wounded in clashes with rebels in the DRC.
"Three of our soldiers have been injured in the conflict since the weekend, largely from shrapnel wounds. None have been seriously wounded,” Zuma told reporters at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
"Our soldiers are well-trained and are ready for their responsibilities towards building a better and more peaceful Africa. South Africa has deployed troops in fulfilment of our international obligations towards the United Nations,” he said. - Sapa