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Our army can’t look after cabbages – Malema calls for SANDF withdrawal from DRC



Malema said the South African soldiers were sent to the DRC ‘to be killed’.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has called for the deployment of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to be rescinded.

At least 2 900 SANDF soldiers were deployed earlier this month provide support in combating illicit armed factions in the eastern region of the DRC.

The deployment was authorised by President Cyril Ramaphosa to fulfil the country’s obligation towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission to the DRC.

According to the Presidency, the year-long and R2 billion deployment would not impact provisions for the cash-strapped SANDF’s regular maintenance and emergency repairs.

‘SANDF sent to be killed’

Speaking in a media briefing following the EFF’s manifesto launch held over the weekend, Malema criticised the deployment, saying the move was “out of order”.

He called for the peacekeeping mission to be stopped “with immediate effect”.

Although he expressed support for South Africa helping the DRC, the EFF leader said he was of the view that SANDF soldiers were not fit for purpose.

“Our army can’t look after cabbages. I can’t hire them at my farm to look after cabbages. We just don’t have the army,” Malema said.

The EFF leader accused the African National Congress (ANC)-led government of leaving the SANDF financially crippled.

“That’s why in the manifesto of the EFF, we say we will finance the army and make sure it is properly trained and the necessary equipment needed for the success of the army is provided. The army has collapsed.”

He said the soldiers were sent to the DRC “to be killed” following the deaths of two people in a mortar bomb attack.

“They are not properly trained. They must come back home and we must stop with any military deployment until we are fit and proper. Cyril Ramaphosa wants to kill our children in DRC.

ALSO READ: Two SANDF soldiers die after mortar bomb hits military base in DRC

“Those [M23] rebels are well equipped. Look at what they did, they hit our base. Who goes to a base of an army if you know that thing is an army and is powerful. You go to their base once you have undermined them.

“That’s why all armies in the battlefield, when things are bad, they are called to retreat to the base because that’s where you can regroup and attack, [but] no, they came to [our] base, that’s how weak [we] are. It’s like another man coming to your house.

“We are undermined to that level and it’s not for the first time. We were [attacked] in Central African Republic… also at the base. What kind of an army is this one that gets easily attacked at its base if you say you have got an army and with so much money being used.”

Ramaphosa defends deployment

Malema further claimed soldiers couldn’t handle the fire that engulfed the military’s combat training centre in Lohatla, Northern Cape, last year.

Six soldiers were killed in the veld fire, which destroyed military equipment and vehicles.

“How do you have the base of the army in the Northern Cape burning down without the army having the capacity to extinguish the fire itself. What if it was another country burning our army base? We are not going to defend ourself. So many soldiers died in that base because there’s no necessary equipment to deal with an emergency like that,” the EFF leader said.

“I will never agree that there must any army of South Africa deployed anywhere, not under the circumstances. We have to equip and retrain our army,” he added.

READ MORE: Are our troops safe in DRC?

Meanwhile, the president has defended the solders’ deployment to the DRC, telling Parliament on Thursday that South Africa would continue to “contribute to peace keeping and peace building efforts on our continent”.

“We have been part of peacekeeping missions all over the world. Now we support our defence force personnel who brave great dangers to make Africa a more peaceful and stable continent.

“That is what we applaud them for and we dip our heads for those who have been injured and those who may well have fallen,” Ramaphosa said during his reply to MPs’ debate on the State of the Nation Address (Sona).

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