Pretoria - Democratic Alliance MP Kobus Marais has questioned the air support and intelligence augmenting the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) troops deployed to Mozambique on a SADC mission, after a soldier was killed by insurgents this week while waiting for air extraction.
“It is always sad when a soldier is lost in a deployment. The DA wishes to express its sincere condolences to the loved ones of the deceased, and must extend our gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice by a soldier to make our region and country a safer place,” said Marais.
“However, we believe that there are serious concerns to be raised about the events that lead to the death of this soldier. SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the South African government must take full responsibility for the death of, and injuries to, our soldiers. The DA has warned against a half-baked military commitment where funding by SADC has not been confirmed,” he said.
Marais said the SADC must accept that it is taking on ISIL in Cabo Delgado, and properly prepare and support the troops that are deployed, or get the regional soldiers out of the war zones.
“The DA will write to the Minister of Defence, Mrs Thandi Modise, and ask her to provide us with a full report on how long it's expected our soldiers will be deployed in support of the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), and how the apparently extended deployment will be funded, given that no clarity exists of the funding sources for Operation Vikela. With the current level and complexity of threats in Cabo Delgado, it may take years to bring about peace,” he said.
Earlier this week, SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Andries Mahapa said the SADC soldiers in Mozambique came under attack from the insurgents during an ambush around an area east of Chai village.
“The members managed to fight through the ambush, but while at the rendezvous awaiting the chopper they got attacked by the insurgents again. During this incident, an SANDF member was shot and declared dead on the scene,” said Mahapa.
The body of the SANDF member was flown back to the SAMIM Chai tactical base.
Mahapa said further investigation was being conducted to determine the extent of injuries to personnel and the loss of equipment during the incident.
Marais argued that this fatality could have been avoided.
“This incident could further have been avoided if proper air strike support was provided, which it appears might not have been the case. This is where the lethal Rooivalk attack helicopters and 4th generation Gripen fighter aircraft should've been on standby, to provide air support and to destroy the enemy. Minister Modise must, therefore, also provide information on how adequate land, air and maritime prime mission equipment will be secured.
“Finally, hard questions must be asked about the failure of military intelligence, which could have avoided the ambush altogether. If not, the lives of our soldiers will be consistently comprised, something we just can't allow,” he said.