A viral photo doing the rounds on social media has left South Africans wondering if soldiers from the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) were deployed to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The short answer is: no.
The photo shows a group of SANDF soldiers at OR Tambo International Airport reportedly boarding a “FlySafiar flight to answer Naledi Pandor’s call to stop Russia”.
If they were going to Russia or Ukraine, they certainly wouldn’t be boarding a FlySafair flight, as the airline only operates in South Africa…
Although the user shared the image as a joke, many South Africans believed it to be true.
Statement by Pandora
Pandor, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, delivered a statement demand that Russia withdraw from Ukraine. That part is true.
“South Africa calls on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine in accordance with the United Nations Charter, which mandates all member states to resolve their international disputes peacefully in such a way as to ensure international peace and security.” and justice are not jeopardized,” Pandor said.
She said armed conflict will lead to human suffering and destruction, “the effects of which will not only affect Ukraine, but reverberate around the world.”
SANDF is not going to Russia
Darren Olivier, Director at African Defense Reviewconfirmed that the soldiers are not heeding Pandor’s call.
The photo shows a rotation for the RSABATT (Republic of South Africa Battalion) component of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) aboard a civilian aircraft.
The photo was taken in December 2021 when SANDF personnel went to Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
New OK Tambo contract
Oliver said: “These rotations have flown to and from OR Tambo since 2020”. Before that, SANDF staff traveled via Bram Fisher Airport in Bloemfontein on a UN-approved airline.
At the time, Brigadier General Andries Mahapa – Director: Defense Corporate Communication (DCC) at Defense Headquarters – was confirmed this arrangement:
“The SANDF confirms that the full rotation of the 21 SA Infantry Battalion to the DRC will be conducted through OR Tambo Airport since the Mango Airline contract expired in 2020 and the SANDF is not in a position to discuss the legality of that contract.”