State gives defence force big jobs but insufficient support
The Times Editorial: President Jacob Zuma has committed more troops to help keep the peace in yet another unstable African country.
The latest deployment - of 400 soldiers, including members of the elite Special Forces and 44 Parachute Battalion - is to the troubled Central African Republic, the government of which is under threat from advancing rebels.
The defence force says the operation, which will run until 2018, is to protect South Africans and South African interests, and to help with the disarmament of the rebels and their reintegration into the army of the Central African Republic.
It is laudable that South Africa, which currently chairs the African Union Commission, and is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, punches above its weight in world affairs, and particularly on this continent.
But the latest deployment, as well as a commitment by the government to contribute to an intervention force in strife-torn Mali, has analysts scratching their heads. The army is already severely overstretched by peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan's Darfur.
In the DRC, rebels staged a blitz in the east in November, turning UN peacekeepers, including South Africans, into mere spectators as they overran Goma, the regional capital. South Africa's lack of heavy airlift capacity meant there would have been no quick way of evacuating our troops if the rebels engaged them.
The rebels withdrew, but attempts to set up peace talks with the Kinshasa government have yet to bear fruit. The situation is equally precarious in the Central African Republic, where rebels continue to capture regional towns in their march on the capital, Bangui.
Plans to call up civilian reservists will help the defence force meet its peacekeeping commitments but might not be enough.
The government must provide the resources needed to sustain our peacekeeping commitments.