Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, has begged government to stop underfunding the service as its ability to protect South Africa’s maritime domain is being compromised.
Speaking on 2 December at the SA Navy Gala Evening in Pretoria, Lobese gave an update on the Navy’s progress on its ‘Journey to Greatness.’ On the positive side, he mentioned the R1.4 billion from National Treasury for submarine and frigate refits, the acquisition of the new hydrographic survey vessel under Project Hotel, and the three new multi-mission inshore patrol vessels (MMIPVs) under Project Biro.
However, he made it clear in his speech that “these three vessels are not nearly enough to fulfil our Constitutional Mandate to protect our maritime resources from sea robbers.” He pointed out that South Africa’s total land area is 1.22 million square kilometres but in contrast, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is 1.53 million square kilometres.
“Surely we cannot be expected to effectively patrol this area with the few ships that our Government allocates us. In fact, we need 15 of these inshore patrol vessels, and at least 12 of the larger offshore patrol vessels. In addition to this we need two hydrographic survey vessels, as well as three combat support vessels. Should this not happen, we as your Navy will not be able to stop the ever-rising scourge of maritime crime and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.”
Lobese, in his prepared remarks for the Gala Evening, said this is a clear and present danger to South Africa’s economic well-being. “We were recently provided information by the US Naval attaché to South Africa, Captain [Michele] Lowe, which clearly indicates that more than 200 ships are operating illegally off the east coast of Africa, as well as in our own waters on our east coast. Without sufficient resources, this will only continue.”
Lobese urged his guests at the Gala Evening, as friends of the SA Navy, “to join our cries and caution our government to stop underfunding our Navy and our SANDF. The stark reality is that by underfunding the SANDF, government is undermining your well-being and the security of this nation.
“Our country is facing enough crises as it is. We refuse to be like Eskom, and other State Owned Enterprises that find themselves in ICU today. The SA Navy refuses to be a toothless maritime security organ because of Government’s disinterest and disregard for the importance of maritime security,” Lobese affirmed.
He urged his guests to spread the word about the need for South Africa’s Navy to be capacitated fully, “just as Government is currently doing with Transnet. Our Government has developed a very good blueprint to boost our maritime economy called Operation Phakisa. However, in order for this to be successful, our country needs a strong, capacitated and well-resourced Navy as a critical success factor. This must be immediately addressed by our Government,” Lobese concluded.