In an interview with Deutsche Welle on 2 August, Prof. Andre Thomashausen said that “South Africa’s defense forces really carried out a mission that can only be considered a failure in the Democratic Republic of Congo. South African soldiers were known for their sexual violence against minors and women, for their habit of trying to steal and traffic in natural resources and, very tragically, for the very high level of HIV infection that caused so much misery in the region that South African forces practically occupied for years. They never wanted to withdraw, they are still there today”.

Thomashausen hopes that discipline will prevail. “Of course, South Africa is aware that its reputation is at stake and will do its utmost to ensure that the detachments act correctly and in accordance with the rules of international law for the resolution of armed conflicts. There can be no abuse against the civilian population”.

A small battalion of South African troops, composed of special forces and unrelated to the SADC force, reportedly arrived in northern Mozambique on 22 July. The SADC mission, led by Major General Xolani Mankayi who led a controversial South African military mission in the Central African Republic, is, however, shrouded in secrecy, says the scholar.

And this weekend, battalion vehicles travelled from South Africa to northern Mozambique. Based on the characteristics of the cars, the South African expert on counterterrorism at ACLED, Jasmine Opperman, predicts the type of operations that will take place: “If we look at the videos that show the vehicles arriving, it’s pretty clear that motor vehicles are for transporting personnel, as well as hospital cars. We don’t see a heavy deployment, with mechanized brigades. We have to be careful with the word ‘mechanized'”.

According to her “we are looking at the motorized capacity for the 43 brigade”. “Brigade 43,” continues Jasmine Opperman, “has all these capabilities, but it has few resources. They receive few funds. The budget is not enough, and that is a constant concern. The three-month deployment will not be enough.”

Thomashausen agrees: “It is public knowledge that the material and equipment have many years of service, all road transport material, on average, has 40 years of service. I know that the caravan that went to Cabo Delgado will not be able to make the trip from South Africa to Cabo Delgado without any breakdowns. Of course, the people who go there have no experience of conflict, the last conflict that South Africa experienced was more than 40 years ago.”

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