Ramaphosa extends SANDF deployment to Mozambique even as withdrawal begins

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SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has added seven months to the deployment of the SANDF to the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) that aims to curb Islamist violence in particularly Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.

This was confirmed by way of a letter to Acting National Assembly (NA) Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli dated 15 April, and published in Parliament’s Announcements, Tablings and Committee (ATC) reports of 22 April.

The date of 15 April is significant as it is the day the original Operation Vikela deployment ended. The Presidential missive informed parliamentarians the “employment” of SANDF personnel would now run from 16 April to 31 December this year at an expected cost of R984 368 057.

The commitment to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) is “in fulfilment of an international obligation” via the regional bloc to support President Felipe Nyusi’s government against hostile ASWJ (Ansar al-Sunna Wa Jamma) elements.

The 1 495 strong South African deployment, with the SA Army Infantry Formation providing the bulk, was supported by engineering and logistic personnel with SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) on active duty for the then three-year lifespan of the mission.

On 7 April the South African contingent in Mozambique staged a farewell parade ahead of exiting the country. At the time they were the second troop contributing country (TCC) to SAMIM to leave following Botswana.

The following week, on 13 April, Major General Patrick Njabulo Dube, the SAMIM Force Commander, visited South Africa’s Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Macomia to evaluate the readiness of Combat Team Charlie to withdraw.

“South Africa has always advocated for collective defence and is a country that does not stand back when other nations are experiencing challenges, be it humanitarian needs or in a conflict situation. There are a lot of expectations from South Africa as a country and from you as soldiers of the SA National Defence Force,” Dube said. “The contribution of the SA National Defence Force is remarkable and commendable in bringing peace and stability in Cabo Delgado and the community of Mozambique.” He encouraged soldiers to remain disciplined and vigilant on the last days of the deployment.

Lieutenant General Mojalefa Letsoela, Lesotho Defence Force Chief of Staff (CoS), was in Mozambique last week to, among others, assess the drawdown status of the SADC Mission in Mozambique. The three-star was, Captain Tshepiso Mantjane, Mission Public Information Officer, reports, thanked for guidance given “regarding the process of exiting the mission”.

The extension of the South African deployment is likely to just cover the departure of SANDF troops and equipment, as the SAMIM mission is slated to wrap up in July, when Rwandan troops will essentially take over under a bilateral agreement with Mozambique.

There was, at the time of publication, no indication from either SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) or the Joint Operations Division on why the SAMIM deployment has been extended and what it entails.