Lieutenant-General Mbuyisenlo Mgwebi, the commander of the Joint Operations Division of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been given a royal send off by the amaXhosa Kingdom in Willowvale in Eastern Cape Province as he takes up a critical position as commander of the United Nations multinational peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The celebrations were attended by among others, former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mgwebi has been described as one of the most decorated and brightest military strategists in the country. "I don't think we should celebrate just yet. You are taking on a very difficult yet very important task. I sympathize with you, but have confidence that you will get the job done," said Mbeki.

The call from the UN is seen as a vote of confidence in South Africa's peacekeeping abilities. "I think that there's a lot of confidence in South Africa's ability to mediate in resolution issues, peace-keeping matters," says Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

" I think that, in spite of the challenges which we have as a nation, we should always take cognizance of the fact that we enjoy respect out there. People appreciate us for who we are and they appreciate our commitment to creating and building peace in the continent."

"We are hoping and strongly believe that General Mgwebi would be able to succeed where many before him tried without much success and we'd all do all we can to assist him," says the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Beni M'poko of the DRC.

Gen Mgwebi says he is under no illusions of the magnitude of the task he is about to undertake and told M'poko: "Your Excellency, I accept to go to your country to serve. I've spoken to President Joseph Kabila (of the DRC) and had some discussions and answers will be found."

The UN Peace Mission in the DRC is one of the biggest military operations of the world body. The conflict in the eastern part pf the DRC began in the early 1990s and continues to this day.

Gen Mgwebi's tenure is set to include the period of the highly expected general election in that volatile central African country, which is rich in natural resources and is considered key to Africa's economic prosperity.