Masoka Dube

By Masoka Dube


Why South African soldiers die in the DRC war – experts weigh in

Underfunding and lack of support are cited as factors in South African soldier casualties in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lack of funding and inadequate support are some of the factors contributing to the killing of South African soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to military expert Helmoed-RÖmer Heitman.

Heitman was commenting after two South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers were killed and 20 injured during the on-going battle in the DRC.

SANDF announced yesterday that the soldiers were killed on Tuesday, after their base in Sake, in eastern DRC, was bombarded by mortars, probably fired by the M23 rebel group.

ALSO READ: Two SANDF soldiers killed, 20 injured in DRC mortar attack

Lack of support

Heitman said the SANDF soldiers were sent to the battlefield without adequate support.

“No air support and no counter-rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) base protection system.

“The overall problem has two parts – underfunding that has left the SANDF with unserviceable equipment and unable to close key capability gaps, and on top of that, a government that does not understand that, or care, or both.

“I would not include our defence ministers in that. I have worked with all of them and they did care and tried to get funding.”

Heitman said the challenge was that SA’s economy has been crippled – with a reduced tax base and high demand for social services.

ALSO READ: SANDF soldier killed in DRC

“The upshot is that, even if the government wakes up, funds are very tight, with not much room to increase defence funding with out shrieks of outrage from those who have to give up some of their funding.

“So we need to start the process of rebuilding the SANDF.”

He said it was necessary to send the SANDF to protect SA’s economic interests in the DRC and other parts of Africa, and make sure there was peace in those countries.

But he emphasised that the SANDF and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces no longer have the capabilities or capacities to handle those important operations.

SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said four members who were critically injured have been hospitalised, while the rest are expected to be discharged soon.

“Families of the two members who [died] have been informed and all procedures to bring their mortal remains are in process.”

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.