ATC180409: Report of the joint oversight visit of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence to Kinshasa and Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 25 to 29 March 2018, dated 9 April 2018
Report of the joint oversight visit of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence to Kinshasa and Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 25 to 29 March 2018, dated 9 April 2018.
The two parliamentary defence committees, namely the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCODMV) and the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD), conducted an oversight visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in particular Kinshasa and Goma, over the period 25 to 29 March 2018.
1.1 Purpose of the visit
The purpose of the oversight visit was for the two Parliamentary Defence Committees to interact with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) peacekeepers in a foreign deployment area. This allowed Members of Parliament to gain insight into the circumstances of deployment as well as to be briefed on operational achievements and challenges. In the process the Delegation was updated on specific issues such as the reimbursements by the United Nations for services rendered, logistical issues related to procurement and transportation to and from the Mission Area, the reported Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) cases, and its contribution to the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), in particular the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
The Delegation comprised of the following people:
Members of Parliament:
Mr. M.S. Motimele Chairperson PCODMV and Co-Chairperson JSCD
Mr. E.M. Mlambo Co-Chairperson JSCD
Mr. D.D. Gamede Whip PCODMV and JSCD
Mr. G.J. Skosana
Me. N.B. Dambuza
Me. N.A. Mnisi
Mr G. Michalakis
Mr S.J.F. Marais
Mr L. Mbinda
Peter Daniels Content Adviser: PCODMV
Bulelwa Madikane Committee Secretary: JSCD
Peter Nkabinde Parliamentary Liaison Officer: MOD
Reginald Marimi Parliamentary Liaison Officer: Secretary for Defence
South African National Defence Force
Lt Gen Barney Hlatshwayo Chief Joint Operation Division
Maj Gen Eric Mnisi Adjutant General SANDF
Maj Gen T.C. Mokhosi Chief Director Operations Joint Operations Division
Brig Gen P.J. Dube Incoming FIB Commander: MONUSCO
Brig Gen M. Dyakopu: Director: Operations Joint Operations Division
Col A.T. Motloung: Senior Staff Officer: Joint Operations Division
Lt Col G.T. Bhie Officer Commanding RSA Composite Helicopter Unit, Goma
Lt Col E.M Molusi: Officer Commanding SANDFSPECC Headquarters Kinshasa
Lt Col K. Moorcroft: Staff Officer: Joint Operations Division
Lt Col D. Tigele Officer Commanding 5 SAI Battalion
Mr Siphiwe Dlamini: Head of Communication: Department of Defence
1.3 Institutions and areas visited
The following Institutions and Areas were visited by the Delegation:
- Air Force Base Waterkloof: Sunday 25 March 2018
- Kinshasa: Monday 26 March 2018
- South African Embassy in Kinshasa.
- Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) at MONUSCO Headquarters.
- SANDF Specialist Contingent (SANDFSPECC XXXI) Headquarters.
- Goma 27 – 28 March 2018
- RSA Composite Helicopter Unit (CHU), Goma.
- Eringeti Company Observation Base (COB), Beni.
- Force Intervention Brigade Headquarters, UN Mavivi Compound, Beni.
2. 25 MARCH 2018
2.1. Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof Briefing
The Delegation received a briefing by the Chief of the Joint Operations Division, Lt Gen Barney Hlatshwayo, at AFB Waterkloof prior to departure for Kinshasa, DRC. He outlined some of the issues Members are likely to encounter on the Oversight visit, such as the SEA cases involving South African peacekeepers, logistical challenges, the potential impact on SA Forces if force levels are reduced and especially the knock-on implications if the Rooivalk attack helicopters are withdrawn. These include South Africa having to review the continuing deployment of other South African military components such as the Infantry Battalion that forms a crucial part of the Force Intervention Brigade. Currently, 5 SA Infantry Battalion is deployed as part of the FIB and is commanded by Lt Col D.H. Tigele. Lt Gen Hlatshwayo expressed the opinion that the absence of the Rooivalk attack helicopters will likely compromise the safety of our peacekeepers, and thus mission integrity and sustainability.
He requested Maj Gen Mnisi, the Adjutant General, to give the Delegation an overview of the reported SEA cases and what the SANDF has done regarding these cases. He briefly reported on the legal support of the SANDF to the troops in peace keeping areas. Given the logistical challenges as well as the fact that most witnesses reside in the DRC, the SANDF decided to deploy the Military Police and Military Courts in the Mission Areas on an ad hoc basis. They provide legal support to the accused and conduct thorough investigations to ensure that all due processes are exhausted.
Some of the points that stands out were that these were cases from the previous deployments, that there are no cases with the current deployment, and that he believes that the timing of the press releases by the UN were “suspicious” given that these were not reported under the former MONUSCO Commander, Lt Gen Mgwebi, but after his tour of duty ended.
There were no discussions on the presentations as it was felt that the Delegation will have amble opportunities in the Mission Area (MA) to interrogate these issues.
The Delegation departed for Kinshasa, DRC, en route refuelling at Katima Mulilo Airport in the north-eastern part of Namibia. On arrival at Kinshasa, a brief overview of what to expect was given by Maj Gen T.C. Mokhosi, who accompanied the Delegation on its oversight visit. He was supported by Lt Col Molusi, the Officer Commanding SANDFSPECC, who highlighted that Kinshasa was not a red area but that it is advisable that the Delegation should go out in groups, should such a need arise. The programme for the following day was explained with the first port of call being the South African Embassy, followed by a visit to the MONUSCO Headquarters to meet with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) and a visit to the SANDFSPECC Headquarters at the Incal Base, Kinshasa.
3. 26 MARCH 2018
3.1 South African Embassy, Kinshasa
The Delegation of the SA Embassy consisted of Mr L Ndimeni (Deputy Ambassador); Mr P Siyathula, Political Counsellor; Mr S Lusenga, SSA; Mr S Matlhakale, Political Counsellor; Mr L Matlhaga, Political Counsellor; Mr L Magampa, SSA; and Ms S Makhanya, Political Counsellor.
The Acting South African Ambassador to the DRC, Mr L Ndimeni, led the presentation in the absence of Ambassador A.M. Shilubane. He referred to the DRC political situation and in particular the political parties, the preparation for the December 2018 elections and South Africa’s views on these. He was assisted in the presentation by two Political Counsellors at the SA Embassy. Given the geo-strategic importance of the DRC, the Embassy hosts several other government Departments such as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Home Affairs (providing assistance with elections). The Embassy staff viewed the Delegation as an important “lobby group” that can assist the Embassy with its relationship with the United Nations through the normal political processes. In particular, it is the line of communication that has been a challenge in that the SRSG reports first to the United Nations before consulting with the Embassy and/or the SA military representatives on matters concerning South Africa.
The Embassy staff felt that the Delegation’s visit need to be informed by a long term view linked to the region’s stability. Rwanda was cited as a case in point since it has achieved a fair amount of stability and economic growth after years of conflict. One of the important building blocks of such stability is the presence and effectiveness of good governance structures. This is especially so since the DRC is viewed as institutionally weak in that it, for instance, does not have a good tax collection system, leading to various other concomitant challenges such as poor service delivery of socio-economic services and infrastructure. An example was also made of Congolese soldiers whose salaries are supposed to be in US dollars but they get paid in Congolese francs, in the process being deprived of the full share of their salaries. A consequence of this is that soldiers and other government officials will try to “supplement” their salaries by other, and not always legal, means.
The upcoming elections in December 2018 would be crucial for the DRC and South Africa can expect to be approached again to assist with funding. In 2011, South Africa contributed around US$100 million and a similar request can be expected for the upcoming elections. It is also expected that Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, would make contributions. There is however pessimism from the Congolese with regards to these countries as they tend to be willing to fund such elections, but with a list of conditions. This has led to a heavier reliance on countries such as Angola and South Africa.
An overview of the political situation was then given, emphasising that politics in the DRC is a complex matter as can be noted in, for instance, the fact that there are over 700 political parties. One of the big challenges in this regard is the electoral ballot in that “books” have to be printed to include all parties. The alternative that is being pursued is an electronic ballot which many parties do not agree with. They cite the possibilities of interference in the election result and referred to the recent Kenyan elections as a case in point. The funding possibilities are further restricted because the DRC has only a few embassies abroad.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Delegation was there to oversee the activities and engage more on these, rather than be engaged in lengthy presentations. Focus then shifted to the next meeting with the SRSG with the Embassy staff advising on a possible way to engage with the SRSG.
The South African Defence Attaché started by noting, as an analogy, that he viewed Africa as being in the shape of a pistol, with the DRC representing the trigger. He stated that if there is no peace and stability in this central region, it would be so much more difficult to achieve peace and stability in especially the SADC region. He gave an overview of the security situation, stating that the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is the main threat with other Armed Groups such as the Mai Mai (MM), and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) also operating in the area. He drew attention to the fact that many of these groups are not originally from the DRC. The ADF hails from Uganda, the FNLA from Burundi, LRA also from Uganda, and the FDLR from Rwanda.
The Defence Attaché was of the opinion that MONUSCO is blowing the SEA cases out of proportion and that it should not have reported directly to New York without giving the South Africans a chance to respond. He and the Acting Ambassador felt that many of the issues raised around the South African peacekeepers need to be placed in context such as the timing of the public announcement, the lack of SA representation at MONUSCO Headquarters level, and that the United Nations were being kept abreast of developments in these cases. Further, the recently reported SEA cases occurred with the previous SANDF deployments and no recent cases have been reported. The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, on a recent visit, similarly questioned the timing of these SEA reports when discussing these cases with the MONUSCO top management.
The reporting of such SEA cases from New York was viewed as a very serious issue given that South Africa does not have representation on the UN Security Council. The UNSC can potentially decide to terminate South Africa’s participation in MONUSCO, based on these reports, as some of the main funders of peacekeeping operations, like the United States, may feel compelled to sever such associations.
One of the issues raised by the Delegation revolved around how important South Africa and its peacekeepers are for the DRC, especially given the SANDF’s constitutional mandate and responsibilities regarding its international obligations. This was viewed as important as the Delegation needs to report back home and communicate with the SA public about the role of our peacekeepers in the DRC. The Chairperson requested the DODMV’s Head of Communication to assist with relaying the correct information to the South African public to offset some of the negativity that emanated from the SEA cases. The Delegation in turn, would also communicate their views on these issues. It was emphasised that the Delegation’s interests were our soldiers and although agreeing that SEA cases are unacceptable, the correct information must be released as the negativity around these cases impact on the morale of our soldiers.
Other questions revolved around the influence of Belguim and France, as well as their possible contributions to funding the elections. Questions were also asked about the stability in the region, especially as it pertains to the role of the rich mineral resources of the country in particular in the East, and how it is being managed and possibly being exploited. The role of Multi-National Corporations (MNC’s) was also discussed as a non-state actor which often complicated the resolution of conflict in the region.
The meeting agreed on an approach to interact with the SRSG which in the main was to request cooperation from MONUSCO to allow the Embassy/SANDF an opportunity to respond, before such reports are being made public.
3.2 Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), MONUSCO Headquarters
MONUSCO was represented by Ms Leila Zerrougui (Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC), Ms Kim Bolduc (Deputy SRSG/Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator), Mr Moudjib Djinadou (Director Political Affairs), Mr Sebastian Fasanello (Chief of Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC), Mr Guy Griffin (Deputy Chief of Staff), Mr Dominique Adjouhouni (Deputy Chief of the Electoral Division), and Ms Florence Marchal (Spokesperson).
3.2.1 Welcome and Introductory Remarks by the SRSG
Ms Leila Zerrougui, the recently appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in the DRC, welcomed the Delegation. She indicated that she has previously been part of MONUSCO in another position and was thus familiar with the main issues around the Mission. She provided an overview of MONUSCO, her functions and some of the challenges, such as the SEA cases which she stated she was compelled to report to the UN Headquarters, immediately. One of the main tasks of MONUSCO is the protection of civilians and to support the political processes in order to have a credible election in December 2018. This would allow the DRC to move forward in a climate of peace and stability and the country would also make history in that it would be the first time that the transition of power would take place peacefully. She welcomed the fact that the Delegation went out of their way to visit the DRC and was impressed by the interest shown by the South African Delegation in their peacekeepers in the DRC.
The Acting Ambassador made a few opening remarks, in the process congratulating the SRSG on her appointment and expressing the hope that the relationship between MONUSCO and the SA Embassy will be further enhanced under her leadership. He requested her to shed light on the statement on SEA cases reported from New York and especially how the UN communication policy works. This will allow the Embassy to be more proactive and be able to anticipate events and their possible responses to such press releases. The SRSG responded that SEA cases are not new and that even before the FIB was established, these cases appeared from time to time across the various Contingents. She stressed that South Africa’s contributions were being appreciated, but that it is important that action be taken and that troops are constantly informed and made aware of the risks attached to such associations. These not only include troops being “red-listed” and prevented from deploying in a UN operation again, but also the risks that the country can be omitted as a peacekeeping contributing country by the United Nations. She emphasised that even consensual sexual activities between peacekeepers and the local population are not allowed in terms of UN policy. A consequence of such associations is that if there are children from such activities, the UN will assist the locals to facilitate maintenance as it cannot be seen to be neutral in such cases. It therefore relies on governments to take strong action in such cases and that it is not true that there is an agenda to besmirch the SA Contingent.
The Chairperson agreed with the contention that the SA peacekeepers need to operate with the confines of the SANDF’s Code of Conduct and that of the United Nations when deployed in such missions. He however expressed concern around the lines of communication and expressed the hope that this will be improved. Also, the impression was created that it was only the SA peacekeepers that are involved in such cases. The SRSG indicated that South Africa should be aware of how the big funders view such accusations, especially in the light of efforts from them to cut their contributions to peacekeeping missions worldwide. She further stressed that it is firstly the UN’s name that is tarnished when such cases are reported since the peacekeepers operate under the UN flag, and secondly it is the relevant Contingent’s reputation that is impacted. She pointed out that it is not only SA peacekeepers but also soldiers from other Contingents who have committed these offences. In addition, she stated that several UN civilians have also been discharged after such cases were reported.
One Member asked whether there are alternatives to South Africa’s involvement in the DRC and whether South Africa is “keeping” other forces out. The SRSG responded that the SA Contingent is one of the more effective forces in the DRC, as can be seen in their role in neutralising the M23 rebels with the assistance of the Rooivalk attack helicopters. She pointed out that she is not aware of South Africa “keeping” out any other force. On the issue of cuts in the funding to MONUSCO, she stated that the budget has already been cut by 36% over the past 5 years and that they are managing these cuts. It was hoped that it will not be cut more substantially in future. Further, they have cut around 240 civilian posts in order to manage the reduced budget, as well as reducing the MONUSCO force level by one Indian and one Bangladeshi battalion. She also pointed out that the DRC government does not want MONUSCO in their country and would like to end the Mission. It was therefore hoped that there will be a successful election in December 2018 to pave the way for stability in the country. It is not only the funders that would like to see this outcome, but also other role players such as NGO’s and other aid agencies. She stressed that all UN missions are going through budget cuts and struggle to manage their budgets within the funds made available. The central issue is that the UN needs to deploy where there is a need in terms of the UN Charter. The challenge is that often when they leave there is the likelihood that ethnic/political tensions will restart again.
The meeting concluded with the Delegation expressing the hope that the relationship and especially the communication between the SA Embassy/SA Contingent and the MONUSCO leadership, will improve in order to allow for accurate and timeous reporting on incidents involving SA peacekeepers.
3.3 SANDF Specialist Contingent (SANDFSPECC XXXI) Headquarters
Lt Col Molusi, the Officer Commanding SANDFSPECC, presented an overview of her battalion’s activities, covering the political/security situation, challenges and achievements. SANDFSPECC is a specialised component of the SA Contingent deployed in the DRC through MONUSCO based in the western part of the DRC, Kinshasa. The Unit is comprised of Air cargo handlers, fire fighters, military police and a Combined Support element. It is responsible for the provision of specialised services as part of the UN operations in the DRC since 2011. She referred to the security situation in Kinshasa as calm but tense in other areas of the DRC.
Some of the challenges in the Mission Area (MA) include:
- Allowances: Members were expected to utilise their allowances to go on leave. They felt that they should be allowed to utilise the C130 aircraft when going on leave. This should be viewed against the background that the deployment period has been extended from six to 12 months and that there are only two flights per month to Kinshasa versus the weekly flights to Goma.
- Uniform: The General Support Base (GSB) should carry enough uniform pieces to issue soldiers with correct sizes, as recent issues have led to them having to utilise private seamstresses to adjust their uniform, with the concomitant security risks attached. Further, given the weather conditions in the DRC the uniform pieces tend to discolour quickly, giving it an untidy and discoloured appearance.
- Equipment: South Africa should replace or purchase new equipment to qualify for a full reimbursement in the Mission Area.
- Unserviceable vehicles: The DOD should have a back loading plan for all unserviceable vehicles within the Mission Area.
- Insufficient recreational and gymnasium facilities: The Department should purchase gym and recreational equipment.
Achievements listed include the following:
- Improvements in the Contingent Owned Equipment (COE) inspection.
- Addressing the improper investigation conducted by another Contingent involving a SEA case.
- SANDFSPECC has succeeded in maintaining a high level of discipline in the MA.
The Chairperson expressed the Delegation’s gratitude for the excellent work being done by the Battalion. He stated that SEA cases are unacceptable and that all soldiers should adhere to the Code of Conduct of the SANDF and especially that of the United Nations for peacekeepers. He gave an undertaking that the Delegation will engage with the Minister, Secretary for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Force to impress on them the importance of properly supporting our peacekeepers.
The issue of leave, in the context of a twelve-month deployment, was once again raised by members of the battalion. One member referred to the “chaotic” traffic conditions in Kinshasa and the likelihood of accidents occurring especially if one has to drive around the city on a daily basis. His concern was that if such an accident occurs in the area of responsibility of, for instance, the Bangladeshi Contingent, it takes a very long time before any feedback is received. He is not afforded an opportunity to raise his side of the story before the case is concluded and referred to the South Africans.
Members of the battalion also raised the issue of uniforms, especially boots, which they viewed as not being suitable for the DRC conditions. This leads to soldiers utilising cobblers in Kinshasa to change the soles of their boots in order to prevent problems with their feet. Some of the procurement challenges are being addressed by Joint Operations, for instance the purchasing of items locally such as towels and toilet paper - instead of the prolonged process to procure from home. Another Member questioned why it should, for instance, take months to purchase towels. He felt that such items should actually be on the next flight from South Africa if the procurement processes for a deployed Contingent were operating optimally.
The reimbursement by the UN also came under discussion as they felt that more can be done to ensure that a bigger portion of money is eventually reimbursed to South Africa. They referred to other Contingents who have two sets of Contingent Owned Equipment (COE), the one set for daily utilisation and the other for UN inspections, which ensure that they are being reimbursed at 100%.
The Chairperson requested that research be conducted to interrogate the procurement processes, alternatives to it, and which items could be procured locally within the regulations. He informed the meeting that the Committees have engaged with National Treasury and was given the impression that progress has been made to ensure that the reimbursements from the UN accrue back to the DOD, and not to the B7 Account (Central Revenue Fund). He concluded that the bottom line should be that such processes should be in the interests of the deployed soldiers and that these should not unnecessarily detract them from their core business.
Maj Gen T.C. Mokhosi explained that the UN has standard requirements for storage facilities such as tanks and containers, and if these are not up to standard, they deduct a certain percentage from the reimbursement amount. He believes that often other Contingents, such as Malawi, are using state of the art items such as tents, which ironically has been procured in South Africa, while substandard equipment is being supplied to the SA Contingent. The Chairperson requested more information on this issue.
A contentious issue relates to the utilisation of Third Party involvement regarding the transport of a Contingent from South Africa to the Mission Area. The Contingent will fly with Ethiopian Airlines to Kigali, Rwanda, from where it will travel by road to Kinshasa, Goma and other areas of responsibility. Given that some of the Armed Groups operate along these routes, it creates security risks. While this issue has been shared with MONUSCO, not much has come of it and it was proposed that it be addressed at a political level. Further, the Contingent would save the UN money if it can be transported directly from South Africa to Kinshasa and from there to Goma and other areas of responsibility.
Regarding the leave policy, it was explained that the SANDF’s policy is not in synch with that of the United Nations and that this was in the process of being addressed. Often it is the member’s decision to take leave after 4 or more months, but given that a place on the C130 cannot be guaranteed to and from South Africa, it will mean that peacekeepers will have to pay out of their pockets to go to or/and return from the Mission Area. It should also be remembered that priority is given to vital spares, the rotation of the helicopter crews and peacekeepers who are experiencing emergencies at home. Although Commanders stagger the leave to accommodate peacekeepers who want to go on leave, some choose not to go, others rely on the C130’s, while others pay for the flights home. The SANDF however prioritised any member who has an emergency at home. It was explained that members receive a 24-day deployment leave and can take 14 days after 6 months and 24 days after a year. Peacekeepers did not agree with this as they felt they should have 28 days after a 12-month deployment.
At the conclusion of the meeting the Delegation went to the United Nations’ UTEX Identity Card Section to collect their MONUSCO identity cards in order to be allowed into the Goma, Beni and Eringeti MONUSCO areas.
4. 27 MARCH 2018
4.1 Kinshasa to Goma Airport
The day was mostly devoted to traveling from Kinshasa to Goma, where the Delegation was given a short overview by the RSA Composite Helicopter Unit Commander. He explained the security situation and advised the Delegation members to utilise the armed escort groups if they want to explore the markets, etc. The planned video-linked discussion with the UN representative was cancelled and Members had the afternoon to themselves.
5. 28 MARCH 2018
5.1 RSA Composite Helicopter Unit (CHU)
The following SANDF staff was present at the briefing: Lt Col G.T. Blie (Commander RSA Aviation Contingent Helicopter Unit/CHU), Lt Col T. Sithetho (Force Commander’s Military Assistant), Cpln Mapheto (RSA Battalion Chaplain), Maj Ledwaba (Intelligence RSA Aviation Officer), Maj Liphadzi (RSA Support Company Commander), Maj Mashao (Force Security Officer), Maj Sello (Battalion Deputy Commander), and MWO Koto (Regimental Sergeant Major).
The Delegation moved from the Ihusi hotel under armed escort to the MONUSCO Regional Goma headquarters, where it was briefed by Lt Col G.T. Bhie, the Officer Commanding RSA Composite Helicopter Unit (CHU), at the Goma Airport.
The presentation highlighted various issues such as their vision of being an air component that inspires confidence and their mission, which it to provide multi-role Air Capabilities for MONUSCO in Service to the United Nations. The Unit’s slogan is “Ours is to serve with Discipline, dignity, professionalism and patriotism.” The Officer Commanding referred to the following aspects in his presentation: Human resources, Operations, Contingent Own Equipment Inspections, Operational Effectiveness Inspections, Discipline and concluded with the RSA CHU challenges.
The CHU conducts various operations such as Cargo handling, Trooping, Self-Protection, Night vision guidance, CASEVACS/MEDIVACS and Observation and Surveillance. They also supply armed air escorts, fire support, search and rescue and extraction operations. They are on standby 24 hours a day and has a reaction response time of 45 minutes. The table illustrates the decrease in flying hours in the utilisation of the Oryx and Rooivalk helicopters since November 2017. These decreases are mostly due to the non-availability of spares, the long turn-around times as well the fact that some spares and services have to be procured abroad.
Decrease in flying hours flown by SA Helicopters
These dwindling flying hours should be viewed against the UN allocation of 50 hours per month per helicopter. Given that SA has 5 Oryx helicopters and 3 Rooivalk helicopters, this amount to around 400 hours for the SA helicopters. If compared with the decreasing flying hours in the table, it is clear that the DOD is not only losing money, but is seriously compromising their reimbursements from the UN given that 80% of the reimbursements are due to the operations of the helicopters. For example in February only 127 out of the possible 400 (31.75 per cent) flying hours were flown.
Some of the factors that affect the operation output of the CHU, include:
- RSA Aviation does not have an aviation related post at G3 and Military aviation headquarters;
- The lack of a proper threat level assessment and intelligence briefings;
- Interoperability challenges between different nationalities especially regarding language;
- Dissimilarities of assets being used for operations such as aircraft performance and on-board equipment; and
- Challenges regarding the Civilian and military interoperability.
Members found the presentation very informative as it gave them a good idea of the conditions, achievements and challenges facing the CHU. They commended the Unit for the sterling work and stated that they have the full support of the two Parliamentary Defence Committees for the work they are doing.
The flying hours of both the Oryx and Rooivalk Helicopters have declined from 131 and 80 in November 2017 to 111 and 16 in February 2018, respectively. Given this decline, Members wanted to know what were the reasons and why the Rooivalk attack helicopters are more expensive to operate than, for example, the MI 24 attack helicopters operated by Ukrainian pilots. It was explained that the Rooivalk helicopters operate as a system, with at least two in the air and one on standby as per the SAAF Regulations. South Africa has three Rooivalk helicopters which see them operationally active very often, with little time for service and repairs. Other countries have for instance 8 helicopters and crews, while South Africa does not have as many crews which limit their rest periods and rotation schedules.
A major issue that was raised relates to the minimum requirements to be competitive regarding crew, spares, ammunition, etc. with other Contingents. The response was that the root of many of these issues can be found in our logistical system to support the operational requirements. Given that problems are encountered with spares, ammunition, helicopter crews etc., it has a wide impact on operational readiness. The Delegation was however assured that the CHU is doing its best with the available resources and has thus far successfully executed their allocated tasks.
One question posed related to the utilisation of the SAMIL transport vehicles, which have been in use for over 20 years in the SANDF. It was indicated that the SAMIL 20 in particular is viewed as a work horse and very suitable for the conditions in the Mission Area. The main challenge with these vehicles are the procurement of spares which often take long, impacting on the UN Evaluation of these vehicles.
The storage of ammunition is also deemed a challenge, partly because of differences in UN requirements and South Africa’s ammunition policies. It was indicated that the UN for instance requires certain ammunition to be “younger” than 20 years, while SA believe these have just matured for effective utilisation. The UN, during their Evaluation, then reclassify these ammunition pieces from B to D, which means it is unsuitable for operational utilisation. Since replenishment process is slow and the correct containers are not always available, the SA Contingent is penalised during the UN Evaluation leading to a smaller amount being reimbursed by the UN.
The CHU Commander indicated that one of the biggest problems is that there are no SAAF staff at the MONUSCO planning offices who can advise them on South Africa’s capabilities and doctrines, especially as it relates to operating helicopters. This has led to situation where pilots are requested to fly with no proper intelligence nor situational awareness which go against their operating doctrines. They feel that often they are given instructions by people at MONUSCO headquarters who have little appreciation of their capabilities and strengths of their aircraft.
The absence of representation of South Africans at MONUSCO Headquarters relates to the size of our Contingent (around 1 500) versus 3 000 and more of other Contingents. It was indicated that the UN policy determines that those with the bigger contingents should be represented at HQ level, leading to SA missing out on representation. While a SAAF Major represented SA there in the past, he was removed when Lt Gen Mgwebi’s (SANDF) term as MONUSCO Commander came to an end.
One Member felt that the presentation gave a good idea of the circumstances and challenges but did not refer enough to achievements. A concern was also raised about the changing criteria for flight clearance, where in the past this could be done fairly quickly, while the new process takes much longer and can even go so far as the President of the DRC having to agree with such clearances. One of the important issues that has been widely reported in SA media, is the Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) cases.
Another question related to whether the 150 unit members were enough for the tasks assigned to them and whether this should not be increased. The response was that the unit strength was determined by the requirements of the UN in general and MONUSCO, specifically. A concern was also raised around the lack of rations and accommodation if South Africans were “forced” to sleep over at Mavivi, Beni,
if weather circumstances for instance, do not allow them to fly back. It was indicated that this issue has been raised with the UN and that progress has been made to resolve this issue.
The Committee indicated to the Military Leadership that accompanied the Delegation that they have spoken to Armscor and Defence Headquarters about the long delays in spares etc. and that they were informed that all orders have been covered. They were requested to supply the Delegation with all the outstanding orders in order to allow the Committees to assist with addressing this pressing issue.
Furthermore, the CHU is voluntarily involved in a Humanitarian project – Quick Impact Project – where they assist around 300 orphans and Internally Displaced People (IDP’s) with classrooms, pit hole toilets, an experimental garden, funded by the Unit members. The Delegation was impressed with this initiative and encouraged the Unit to continue with this humanitarian effort. The Chairperson was of the opinion that the Delegation should investigate how MP’s can assist in this project and whether other sources of funding and/or donations can be sourced to assist with this noble initiative.
5.1.3 Interaction with SAAF Aviation staff
After the briefing, the Delegation interacted with the RSA SAAF Aviation staff and commended them for their sterling work, as well as the fact that the South African public is proud of their achievements. The Chairperson invited them to share those challenges related to their living conditions, the state of their equipment as well personal problems. One of the issues raised by the Aviation staff was the kind of support available, especially recreation, given that their movements are limited outside of the base. One staff member also raised the issue of the budget cuts which were impacting on their ability to do their work to the best of the abilities, and requested the Delegation to prioritise this issue.
The fact that the deployment period has been extended from 6 months to one year has contributed to various other socio-economic issues for the peacekeepers. They wanted to know whether the Defence Force cannot provide flights for leave purposes to assist to address some of the socio-economic challenges experienced. Some of the medical staff raised the issue of commuted overtime that have to be looked into as they are on standby 24 hours a day, but not being compensated accordingly. Another issue raised related to the continuation of deductions from their salaries sometime after the deployment has been completed.
One concern dealt with the discrepancies in the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) allowances which is leading to dissatisfaction from, for instance, social workers and environment health specialists. The group also raised concerns around the reduction of engineers deployed, which increased the workload of those remaining in the deployed area. Further, the allowances for those involved in “normal” peacekeeping (UNSC Chapter VI) and those in the FIB which has an offensive mandate (UNSC Chapter VII) are the same, which they viewed as unfair.
In conclusion, Ms Dambuza commended the female staff for their participation and contributions to the peacekeeping efforts. She stated that we are all proud of them and wish them all the best with their tasks. Mr Marais similarly thanked the Aviation staff, assuring them that we all sleep well because they are doing their job. He told them that the Delegation is aware of the budgetary challenges and that it is indeed a priority for the Parliamentary Defence Committees. The Delegation will take the issue up with the DOD and especially National Treasury to assist to ensure that such a valuable national asset is funded accordingly.
After the interaction with the Aviation Unit, the Delegation boarded two Oryx helicopters to pay a visit to SANDF peacekeepers in Beni. After flying out for half an hour, the Oryx’s returned as the pilots were concerned about the deteriorating and increasingly inclement weather conditions.
6. Beni Airport Military Base, Mavivi
On the morning of the 27th of March 2018, the Delegation flew with two Oryx helicopters out to Beni Airport, from where it was escorted by two Rooivalk Helicopters to the Eringeti Airstrip. From the airstrip, the Delegation was transported to the Eringeti Company Observation Base, with the Rooivalk Helicopters flying overhead to ensure the Delegation’s safety. The base is staffed by two platoons of C-company of 5 SA Infantry Battalion and is headed by an Infantry Major.
6.1 Eringeti Company Observation Base
The Delegation firstly met with the SA peacekeepers requesting them to raise any concerns and challenges that they may be experiencing. Issues raised by the peacekeepers related to leave, uniform, living conditions, and the proximity of the civilian population. The base is inside a residential area and is surrounded by houses and a school. The Delegation was informed that the base is in the process of being moved given the security risks, as well as the fact that some of the members of the Armed Groups might hail from the surrounding communities. Ms Mnisi thanked the peacekeepers for their contributions reminding them our country is proud of them and that they must continue walking tall in pursuit of peace and stability in the area.
The Delegation then conducted an inspection of the facilities which in the main consisted of tents comprising sleeping quarters, the mess, the sickbay and ablution facilities. The Officer Commanding 5 SAI Battalion, Lt Col D. Tigele, gave the Delegation a brief overview of the security situation in the area, challenges and achievements. Given the limited time available only questions of clarity were asked to which the Military component responded.
6.2 Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The following FIB personnel were present at the briefing: Col J Maseko (Chief of Staff – Malawi); Lt Col MF Tshabangu (G2 Chief – RSA); Lt Col JE Katunge (FIB G3 – Tanzania); Lt Col C. Krieger ( FIB G4 – RSA); Lt Col L Yetala (MALBATT CO – Malawi); Lt Col D Tigele (RSABATT CO – RSA); Lt Col R Kgatitswe (RSA MTG – RSA); Maj AM Mzee (TANZBATT REP- Tanzania); Maj PJ Sangawe, (FIB Deputy G5 Chief – TANZANIA); Maj SP Kabisa (FIB G6 Chief – Tanzania); Maj K Ramukhithi (FIB Deputy G3 Chief – RSA); and Capt AM Koundy (FIB G3 Duty Officer – Niger).
The briefing was conducted at the FIB Headquarters at Beni Airport, Mavivi, and was led by the FIB’s Chief of Staff, who was the acting FIB commander, followed by his Control Staff. The briefing outlined the following aspects:
- Composition of the FIB, which initially consisted of three battalions from Malawi, Tanzania and the RSA, a Special Forces Company, a Special Protection Company and an Artillery Battery, all from Tanzania. The latter was repatriated to Tanzania after it conducted successful operations against the ADF (Ops USALAMA 11).
- A Background, outlining that the FIB is the brainchild of the SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).
- Establishment of the FIB in terms of UNSC Resolution 2098 in March 2013, to:
- Support the authorities of the DRC on the basis of information collation and analysis;
- Taking full account of the need to protect civilians and mitigate risks before, during and after military operations;
- Carry out targeted offensive operations either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC (the Congolese military), in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner and in strict compliance with international law, and
- Prevent the expansions of all armed groups, neutralise these groups, and to disarm them in order to contribute to the objective of reducing the threat posed by armed groups on state authority and civilian security in the eastern DRC and to make space for stabilisation activities.
- Mandate: An Intervention Brigade tasked with:
- Carrying out “targeted offensive operations.”
- Neutralise armed groups with the intent of preventing violence against civilians.
- Protecting civilians under imminent threat.
The rest of the briefing dealt with the structure of the FIB and an orientation of the Mission Area (MA). The various armed groups in the FIB Area of Responsibility (AOR) were listed as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADR), Mai Mai (MM), and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Security situation covered the various attacks from August 2017 onwards as well as an attack on civilians on 27 March 2018, a day before the Delegation visited the area.
Some of the successes of the FIB, include:
- 2013 – M23 was successfully destroyed
- 2014 – Created freedom of movement for civilian communities around Beni Territory
- 2015 – ADF Leader James Mukuru was forced to be in the run until he was arrested in Tanzania
- 2016 – ADF neutralised
- 2017 – FDLR command and control system successfully disrupted
Challenges reported by the FIB include:
- Being assigned traditional peacekeeping tasks such as escorts, occupying Company Observation Bases (COB’s) and Temporary Observation Bases (TOB’s).
- Difficulty to distinguish friend from foe as the ADF wear the same uniform as the FARDC (the Congolese military).
- Lack of force multiplier such as Air assets. (The FIB does not have air assets that is solely dedicated to it to be utilised such as the Oryx Utility Helicopter and Rooivalk/MI-24 Attack Helicopters).
- Accelerated wear and tear of Contingent Owned Equipment (COE) due to operating environment.
- Interference from FIB HQ on Command and Control on operational matters. Decisions taken by the FIB Commander were on occasions questioned by the FHQ.
There was little time for discussion as the Delegation was running behind schedule. The Chairperson concluded by stating that many of the issues raised in the presentation were not new to the Delegation as it had been briefed on some of the issues. He expressed the appreciation of the two Committees for the excellent work that the FIB is doing and encouraged them to keep soldiering on. He confirmed that their efforts to ensure the safety of especially civilians and the creation of conducive conditions for peaceful elections in the area, are being appreciated. He explained that the key issues for the SA peacekeepers are to be supported optimally to enable them to execute their international obligations and adherence to its Constitutional mandate, in particular to be a disciplined force in service of the country.
The following recommendations were made by the Delegation:
- The SA Embassy and SANDF is encouraged to enhance its communication with MONUSCO in order to be kept abreast of developments concerning SA peacekeepers in the DRC.
- The Committee will interact with the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (PCIRCO) to highlight some of the related challenges experienced by the SA Embassy and South African peacekeepers in the DRC. This is, inter alia, to ensure there is consultation between these parties before press releases are made by the UN concerning our peacekeepers.
- While the Delegation takes note of the fact that the SRSG needs to report SEA cases immediately to New York, it recommends that the PCIRCO engages with the UN through the normal channels, that it should consult with the SA Embassy in the DRC and the SA Contingent before releasing such press statements.
- The Delegation recommends that the PCIRCO also enquires around the Third Party involvement to transport our peacekeepers to the DRC, given the protracted, more expensive and less secure option that is currently being followed, i.e. that the Contingent will fly with Ethiopian Airlines to Kigali, Rwanda, from where it will travel by road to Kinshasa, Goma and other areas of responsibility.
- It is recommended that the DOD Head of Communications assist with relaying the correct information to the South African public to offset some of the negativity that emanated from the SEA cases and which impacted negatively on our peacekeepers.
- The Delegation recommends that the military command should ensure that South African peacekeepers are consistently reminded of the UN policy against SEA activities, especially sexual relationships with the local population, whether it be consensual or not.
- The Delegation recommends that the Military Command should endeavour to optimally support South African peacekeepers and to this extent it will engage the Minister, Secretary for Defence as well as the Chief of Defence Force on these matters. The point of departure should be what is in the best interests of our deployed peacekeepers regarding the kind of support they require given the selfless task they are performing, that they are far away from home for up to 12 months, and that it is often not a case of a lack of funds, but rather outdated and inappropriate policies.
- The Delegation recommends that the Chief of Logistics should be invited to explain the procurement processes, alternatives to it, and especially which items could be procured locally within the regulations in the Mission Area. The aim should be to address procurement challenges and finding lasting solutions on such challenges for SANDF forces deployed abroad.
- The Committees recommends that National Treasury should be invited to brief the Committees on development regarding the reimbursement of the SANDF for its missions abroad during the past five years. This should include information on funds received from the UN and funds re-distributed to the DOD.
- Several human resource issues have been raised with the Delegation, and it recommends that the Defence Force look into the following issues and report back to the Parliamentary Defence Committees within 30 days of the adoption of this report:
- The synchronisation of the leave policies of the UN and the SANDF.
- Making aircraft available for peacekeepers for leave purposes at the cost of the SANDF.
- Commuted overtime for medical practitioners given that they are on standby 24 hours a day but do not receive the overtime allowances.
- The Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) allowances for social workers and environmental health specialists on deployments.
- More information on the decrease of the number of engineers deployed and its impact on the operational effectiveness of our peacekeepers.
- The continuation of deployment deductions long after the specific deployment has ended.
- Logistical challenges experienced by the Contingent in the Mission Area are numerous and the Delegation recommends that the Defence Force provides it with feedback and more information on such issues within 30 days of the adoption of this report:
- The lack of certain containers and/or tanks to store ammunition and other strategic reserves in order to fully qualify for the UN reimbursements.
- The long extended periods to provide ammunition and spares for especially vehicles and aircraft in the Mission Area.
- An alignment of the ammunition policies of the DOD and the UN in order to allow for a bigger percentage of the UN reimbursement to flow back to South Africa.
- The reasons for the non-availability of rations and accommodation for flying crew and other personnel if they are forced to sleep over at Beni due to deteriorating weather conditions.
- Providing the Committees with a list of the outstanding orders it requested through Armscor as the latter indicated that all orders have been covered and that there are no outstanding orders.
- Given the restrictions on the movement of peacekeepers in the Mission Area, the Department should urgently assist them with gymnasium and other recreational facilities.
- The Delegation recommends that the Committees should investigate how it can possibly support and or source donations for the Humanitarian Project that the CHU is involved with to assist Congolese orphans and Internally Displaced People.
- Given the impact that a limited defence budgetary allocation has on the operations in the Mission Area, the Committees recommend that it should interact with National Treasury on this issue to impress on them the importance of properly funding the Department of Defence and in particular our deployed soldiers.
The Delegation would like to express its appreciation for the Department of Defence for its contribution to ensure the success of this Oversight visit. The support and assistance of the Chief of Joint Operations Division, Lt Gen Hlatshwayo, and his staff, especially Maj Gen Mokhosi and the various Officers Commanding and the leadership of the RSA Contingent, is appreciated. They are commended in particular for the assistance to avail facilities for our wheel-chair bound Member and for making a medical doctor – Maj Ndlovu - available for the duration of the Oversight Visit. The SA Embassy in the DRC, the Special Representative of the Secretary General and her staff, the South African Defence attaché, the pilots and staff of the chartered aircraft, and all other personnel who have contributed to the smooth execution of the Visit, are thanked for their sterling services and support. The Delegation also thanks the Committee Support staff for the arrangements and their efforts to make the Oversight Visit a successful and uneventful one.
Report to be considered.
 On 27 March 2018 in Kasinga - a village near Beni Town - 11 Civilians were killed and a number of villagers were kidnapped and others were displaced. Goats, chicken and food were looted by the alleged ADF attackers. The next day (28 March 2018), the local population protested by blocking the roads in Beni Town to voice their dissatisfaction about the security situation. It was assessed that the protest was against MONUSCO.
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