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President Jacob Zuma has informed Parliament that 1 345 soldiers have been deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the presidency said on Friday.
“Our soldiers are doing exceptionally well in the continent. We congratulate them and assure them of the support of their compatriots as they continue to contribute to the building of a better Africa, as a force for peace,” Zuma said in a statement.
“We are very proud of them and their contribution to African renewal and development.”
The deployment was from June 13, 2013 to March 31, 2014. The expected cost of the deployment was R402 800 000.
The soldiers would be part of a “force intervention brigade”, under the United Nations Monusco peacekeeping force.
Zuma arrived in Luanda, Angola, on Thursday for consultations with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and DRC President Joseph Kabila Kabange.
“The three heads of state are expected to discuss a range of issues relating to peace and stability in the region, particularly the current peace efforts in the DRC,” Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement at the time.
The SA National Defence Force said on Friday that South African soldiers in the DRC had not been engaged in armed combat with rebels in the country,
“I can confirm that... the DRC (defence) force engaged with the M23 rebels,” SANDF spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini said.
“We are in a defensive line - we are not engaging.”
He said the intervention brigade comprising of soldiers from South Africa, Tanzania, and Malawi was mandated to engage “armed groups”.
“They will not wait and watch while civilians are being attacked by armed groups,” Dlamini said.
“They will intervene to engage, neutralise, and disarm.”
On Thursday news agency Agence France-Presse reported that fresh fighting broke out outside the city of Goma.
M23 rebels attacked government-held positions on Wednesday night 20 kilometres north of the capital of North Kivu province.
Both sides said they were not yet able to say how many people had been killed or wounded. - Sapa