African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (L) talks to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma during the close of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa,
PORT ELIZABETH – The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is always ready to participate in peacekeeping missions in Africa because South Africa is passionate about peace on the continent, President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.
“National security includes the safeguarding of South Africa and its people against a wide range of threats, many of which are non-military in nature,” he said at the annual Armed Forces Day in Port Elizabeth.
Speaking in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the SANDF, Zuma said because many of these sources of insecurity transcended state borders collective action had to be taken within multilateral organisations to provide adequate responses and lasting solutions.
“We play our role mandated mainly by the African Union (AU) with the support of the United Nations (UN), and participate in peace missions within the continent. We do this because we want to see peace and stability in our continent. We want to see the end of suffering of women and children in Africa. We want to see the end of the flight of Africans from their countries because of wars and conflicts.
“We are passionate about peace and that is why our armed forces are always ready to participate in peacekeeping missions. The African Union has taken a resolution that guns must be silenced in Africa by 2020. South Africa is playing its part meaningfully towards the achievement of that goal,” Zuma said.
The newly completed Defence Review 2014 which was now ready for implementation spoke to a “modern defence force with a modern soldier”, and mapped out the direction defence would be taking for the next 30 years.
Given the new African mandate, members of the SANDF had to be equipped with skills which gave them versatility in peacekeeping operations. They should be able to use these skills when they returned home.
“This requires that we be ready at all times. We must have light, mobile forces and the ability to deploy and sustain such forces over considerable distances in remote areas, and into hostile and underdeveloped areas.
“We must also be able to cope with an escalation in hostilities. These are all aspects of the new defence force as envisaged by the Defence Review 2014,” he said.
SANDF soldiers had continued to perform exceptionally well in peace missions and had done the country proud.
One of the key demonstrations of the success of South Africa’s participation in peacekeeping missions was the recent appointment by the UN of SANDF Lt-Gen Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi as force commander of the 20,000-strong UN Mission in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, called Monusco.
This was the largest UN peace support operation in the world and on the continent.
“The appointment of General Mgwebi is a clear indication of the confidence that the UN has in South Africa and the role and contribution we have made in peacekeeping in the continent and beyond,” Zuma said.