‘I wanted to be part of this meaningful and exciting career’

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Thursday, 27 June 2019 | Worldwide | Department of Global Communications (DGC) | African Renewal I Hugo Bourhis

To celebrate their service and sacrifice, 'Africa Renewal' magazine interviewed some of UN’s youngest peacekeepers to find out what drives them. Today, we feature Dimakatso Maila.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Dimakatso Raisibe Margaret Maila from South Africa. I am originally from Marulaneng Ga-Mphahlele in Limpopo Province and I joined the South African National Defence Force in 2010.

How long have you been a peacekeeper?

I started this journey last year — June 2018. Currently, I am a Platoon Commander, and I command, control and lead 38 members. I am responsible for these members’ combat readiness, their welfare and social responsibilities. I ensure that they are always battle-ready during patrols.

How did you become a UN Peacekeeper?

I chose this career because I was inspired by other women in uniform in our society and I wanted to be part of this meaningful and exciting career. I joined peacekeeping when my Unit 7 of the South African Infantry Battalion was instructed to be ready to deploy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for one year under the spectrum of the United Nations. We then embarked on intensive training to prepare for the operation in the DRC. It is during this preparation phase that I was made a Platoon Commander, to command and lead 38 men and women for a peacekeeping mission in the DRC.

What is your typical day like?

I wake up early in the morning to get ready for the day. I take breakfast then prepare my platoon. I ensure that everyone in my platoon is accounted for and ready for the patrols. We then conduct patrols in the villages of Mayimoya, interact with the community members and collect information on the activities of the enemy. I then compile and consolidate all the information for my Company Commander and the Intelligence Officer. A day’s patrol can last from 4 to 6 hours. We also conduct night patrols to ensure the community is well safeguarded. The night patrol can take anything from 3-4 hours.

What are three things you like most about the country you are deployed in? 

One of the highlights of my mission was when I was tasked, together with my platoon members, to conduct long range patrols in some of the “red spotted” areas in our area of responsibility with the aim of locating suspected armed grouping.  Secondly, the fact that I am a woman and I oversee men and women brings joy to me. I also interact with local community inhabitants – the Congolese women and children, from the point of view of a mother.

What part of your job do you find most challenging?

In my platoon, those I am deployed with have made this job easy for me. I thought that because I am young, the older people in the platoon would undermine me but that didn’t happen. They all respect my orders and they execute them as instructed. That has made this job easier for me. However, seeing Congolese women and children homeless because of the ongoing war in the DRC tears my heart apart and reminds me of the reason my country deployed me here in the first place.

Read the full story on the ‘African Renewal’ magazine website.