Calls mount to recall SANDF after fatal attack

Two South African soldiers were killed in a mortar strike in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two South African soldiers were killed in a mortar strike in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Published Feb 16, 2024


Two South African soldiers were killed in a mortar strike in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the force's first casualties since it was deployed to help quell an insurgency.

Announcing the deaths, the SANDF said three more soldiers were wounded in the incident on Wednesday near the eastern city of Goma.

“A mortar bomb landed inside one of the South African contingent military bases, inflicting casualties and injuries to the SANDF soldiers,” the SANDF said.

“As a result of this indirect fire, the SANDF suffered two fatalities and three members sustained injuries,” the statement added.

The injured were taken to the nearest hospital in Goma, capital of the troubled North Kivu province.

The deaths mark the first fatalities since South Africa began to deploy 2 900 soldiers in eastern DR Congo in mid-December.

The deployment had been faced with criticism from opposition parties.

The troops have been deployed as part of a southern African regional force, also including soldiers from Malawi and Tanzania, tasked with helping DRC government forces fight M23 rebels.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said fatalities had to be taken into account when participating in missions overseas.

“Of course, in any situation of conflict, yes, there are those who will fall,” Ramaphosa said during a speech in Parliament.

He added that as a member of the Southern African Development Community, South Africa had a duty to provide troops. “We dip our heads for those who are injured, and those who may well have fallen,” he told lawmakers, praising military personnel for braving “great dangers to make Africa a more peaceful and stable continent”.

Earlier this week, the DA alleged that the South African troops lacked adequate air support and would be “sitting ducks” fighting rebels on unfamiliar terrain.

“It is heart-breaking,” the DA's shadow defence minister Kobus Marais said on Thursday, commenting on the deaths.

“That war and conflict has got little or no relevance to our national security ... The government, the commander -in-chief and the minister who have authorised this must carry the consequences.”

EFF leader Julius Malema on Thursday called for the immediate return of SANDF members.

He claimed that the army had collapsed, lacked capacity and was not effectively trained.

“We just don’t have the army; the ANC has collapsed the army. They are sent there to be killed, because they are not properly trained. They must come back home.

“We must stop with any military deployment until we are fit and proper,” Malema said.

He said the lack of training and utter disregard for the South African defence was evident, given how they were even attacked at their own bases.

The South African National Defence Union (SANDU) called on the government and SANDF leadership to prioritise the safety and well-being of troops deployed in the DRC.

“Comprehensive investigations into the recent attack must be conducted to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the incident and to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future,” said national secretary of SANDU advocate Pikkie Greeff.

The union extended its condolences to the families, colleagues and loved ones of the fallen soldiers following the attack.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the fallen soldiers during this incredibly difficult time. We recognise and honour the ultimate sacrifice made by these courageous individuals in service to our nation and in support of peace and stability efforts in the DRC,” said Greeff.

He said the union would continue to closely monitor developments in the DRC and provide support to affected personnel and their families.

The Mercury