In pursuit of international partnerships and collaboration, the South African Navy will next year host the Sea Power for Africa Symposium, and send a ship to Cuba, amongst other initiatives.
Speaking on 2 December at the SA Navy Gala Evening held at Unisa, SA Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, said in terms of naval diplomatic reach and influence, the SA Navy footprint in the global sphere is incontrovertible. “We have maximized all opportunities at our disposal to enhance bridges of friendship with Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Italy, Germany, France, USA, India, Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, China, and Brazil just to mention a few. These engagements happened under my watch. I do believe that there is still a room for more investment in expanding our naval diplomatic reach. As the SA Navy, this is an obligation we do not take likely, as the protection of our maritime space and its interests are key to achieving our mandate.”
Lobese emphasised that effective cooperation for the management of South Africa’s maritime domain, oceans and good order at sea is a collective effort.
“During my engagements with other Chiefs of the Navies around the globe, we have all emphasised that it is beyond the capacity of any nation to unilaterally protect its maritime interests because of the nature of the maritime global trading system. We have to work together.
“The Passage Exercises conducted in our waters particularly with the Navies passing our shores demonstrate a commitment of force alliance and opens a myriad of opportunities that can be pursued. There is also a prospect of converging interests on a range of international issues.
“Strengthened relations with all our sister countries will significantly add value and contribute fully to the protection of our seas. To demonstrate a commitment to this cause, I am pleased to announce that the Naval Command Council has resolved that next year the SA Navy will host the Sea Power for Africa Symposium. The last time this symposium was hosted in our soil was in 2009. Ladies and gentlemen, the SA Navy is on the path to greatness,” Lobese said in his prepared remarks.
The SA Navy Chief pointed out that the SA Navy has participated in various fora and symposia with the express intent of improving naval relations with foreign friends. “We have also sought to encourage dialogue on matters of common interest. These include our participation in the International Sea Power Symposium hosted by the United States of America, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference or IMDEC hosted by Ghana and closer to home we have led the Standing Maritime Committee within SADC for this year.”
Lobese has been active at maritime security events internationally, and presented a paper entitled ‘Sisonke – Cooperative African Maritime Security’ at the IMDEC exhibition in Ghana in August, where he emphasised the need for African countries to work together to ensure effective maritime security for all countries on the continent.
“This paper was very well received by all the countries present [at IMDEC]. The Chief of Naval Staff of Nigeria, Admiral Ogalla said, ‘I align with the focus of your presentation which suggest improved cooperation amongst African navies. I will work hard to ensure the realisation of the objective and also to further the existing cooperation between the Nigerian Navy and the South African Navy’. The Chief of the Angolan Navy, Admiral Valentim Antonio also said ‘We need to move on strengthening relations between our navies’. The Chief of the Kenyan Navy, Admiral Mutai, also expressed the same sentiments. The Chief of the Egyptian Navy, Admiral Megahed, also agreed that the African navies must work together. I am looking forward to accepting his invitation to visit his country in January next year. We have lots to discuss to ensure our Navies can improve our relationships,” Lobese told guests at the Gala event.
He went on to say that the maritime world sees the South Africa Navy as a critical partner, and navies of the world aspire to be associated with the SA Navy. “Invites from China, Russia, Iran, France, USA, and India to mention a few have been received, inviting the SA Navy to be a partner to their maritime exercises. The time has arrived for the SA Navy to unlock its potential and traverse the world in recognition displayed by the naval global community. The Journey of Greatness begins here.
“Very soon, the SA Navy will undertake a historic voyage by sending one of its ships to Cuba to nurture the already flourishing relations. Relations between the two countries have seen their militaries realising important exchange programmes in various fields amongst others; technical services, engineering, and training of senior officers just to mention a few,” Lobese said.