GOMA - South African companies on Friday restated their commitment to supporting the local soldiers deployed for peacekeeping in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other African states.
There are almost 1 500 South African soldiers who are deployed for peacekeeping as part of the Force Intervention Brigade in the eastern DRC under the United Nations (MONUSCO).
During this year's Goodwill Parcel Project (GWPP) in the DRC, South African soldiers received packages of gifts that included backpacks, soccer kits, sunglasses, board games, and many other things to keep them occupied and entertained whilst deployed.
The Goodwill Parcel Project has a R3 million budget from 19 companies who are sponsors to supply some "festive season" cheer with gifts for South African soldiers who are servicing in peacekeeping missions in different African states.
Tendani Matshisevhe, senior manager of stakeholder relations at Sanlam, said they were involved in this because it was a "noble project", adding that South Africa's stability also depended on peace in other African countries.
"This is a noble project. When the soldiers are out there fighting with rebels, we have to look at what kind of support do they need in a foreign country for over a year. Our contribution as wealthsmiths is, we believe, that we need to give back to the people that are making a difference," Matshisevhe said.
"A peaceful South Africa depends on its neighbours. Their family members must know that even if their husbads or spouses are over there, someone is looking after them and for the guys that are deployed to know they are not alone. We need as many corporates to join hands to support because a peaceful Africa is good for South Africa."
Hendrie Marais, acting chairperson of the GWPP civilian leg and also regional manager for Metropolitan, said the intention for the project is to make it more livable for soldiers deployed and give them some gifts to enjoy while civilians are having a nice festive season.
"It's not only more about money and sponsoring, it's more about making the soldiers to feel that we, as South African citizens, feel proud that they are playing a role in Africa for peacekeeping. We need to have a bit of more companies coming to this, reason why is that the South African economy is tough, the increase of sponsors did not improve, it's still the same number from last year but to get more gifts is more expensive. But the appetite by the companies is very high," Marais said.
Speaking on behalf of the chief of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) at the handout ceremony, Brigadier General Ntshengedzeni Phillip Mavhungu, hailed the sponsors for visiting the mission area and for showing their support and appreciatiation for sacrifices made by South African troops.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every sponsor here with us and back in South Africa for the long-standing contribution to make this Project a huge success," Mavhungu said.
"I sincerely hope that you continue to serve the SANDF with the same vigour as you have displayed thus far and that you will continue to make a valuable contribution in your respective areas of responsibility to ultimately contribute to peace and stability on the continent."
African News Agency (ANA)