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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

SANDF: SA soldiers weren’t taken hostage in DRC

The SANDF says reports of soldiers being taken hostage in DR Congo are false.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has dismissed reports alleging two soldiers had surrendered to the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and have been held hostage.

This comes after the news website, National Security News, reported that “several” soldiers had surrendered to the M23 rebels in the region last week.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa says SANDF has ‘military hardware’ for operations in DRC

“This past week the crisis around the SANDF deployment in the eastern DRC escalated dramatically. The SANDF took more casualties when attacking M23 formations. During the combat several South African soldiers reportedly surrendered to M23 and were reportedly taken prisoner by M23 along with soldiers from Malawi,” reads parts of the article.

“With the capture of the South African soldiers by M23, questions arise as to why President Ramaphosa rushed to deploy a small, ill-prepared South African force without the required air cover against M23 in dangerous terrain?”

SADNF soldiers ‘accounted for’

However, the report has been dismissed as baseless by the SANDF.

“We want to state categorically that all SANDF members deployed in the DRC have been accounted for,” said spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini on Wednesday.

ALSO READ: SANDF dismisses claims of mineral interests in DR Congo deployment

“This is not the first time such unfounded and baseless news articles have been written about the SANDF since its deployment in the DRC under SAMIDRC.

“The SANDF views such attempts to discredit the defence force in the most serious light by faceless people, and will not standby and allow its good name to be tarnished.

ALSO READ: Uproar over SANDF deaths in DRC

“The SANDF as the authority for the deployed members shall at all times inform the South African public about the situation and safety of its members in the DRC.”

Clarity on SANDF deployment

Meanwhile, ActionSA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and Defence Minister Thandi Modise to inform South Africans about plans to keep the country’s soldiers safe.

“It has become quite clear that the SANDF does not have the sufficient manpower capacity and the necessary prime mission equipment, as the recent news reports that are highlighting the appalling living and working conditions, let alone the lack of necessary mission equipment including land and air support element, they are failing to provide simple and hygienic living and working conditions as reported in the news recently.”

ALSO READ: Dialogue needed on SANDF’s capabilities in DRC – analysts

However, these claims have been dismissed by Ramaphosa, who, earlier this year, assured South Africans that the SANDF troops are fully equipped to handle conflicts in the DR Congo.

“We are trying to secure the peace in the DRC. It’s quite complex. It’s not an easy situation and the conflict has been going on for quite a while. We already had a situation which led to the shooting of our helicopter and yesterday, we also had two fatalities,” said Ramaphosa.

“Yes, we have the military hardware to engage in military operations such as those we’re finding in the eastern DRC. South Africa has over many years participated in peacekeeping missions in various parts of our continent.”

Ramaphosa deployed at least 2 900 SANDF soldiers earlier this month to provide support in combating illicit armed factions in eastern DRC.

He said the deployment was to fulfil the country’s obligation towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to that country.

So far, two soldiers have lost their lives in the region, while three more sustained severe injuries after a mortar bomb landed inside one of the South African Contingent’s military bases.

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