Images that have emerged on social media allegedly showing Chinese military vehicles arriving in Cape Town are in fact of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) equipment delivered overland via Namibia.
Photos and videos have emerged online showing military vehicles and other equipment being transported by road, with erroneous reports claiming Chinese presence in South Africa. However, the equipment was in fact delivered to Botswana from France under a 2016 order.
Photos show a Unimog-mounted Mistral Coordination Post, a Panhard VBL armoured vehicle fitted with what appears to be a Mistral launcher assembly, a VL MICA missile transporter-erector-launcher truck and a VL MICA truck-mounted radar or command post vehicle.
A separate set of photos appears to show MOWAG Piranha armoured vehicles being transported on the back of lowbed trucks. Botswana has acquired a number of these from Switzerland.
defenceWeb understand that the equipment was delivered in at least two different convoys. One convoy was apparently several months ago, and the other was at least a year ago. It is most likely the VL MICA and Mistral systems were delivered most recently.
In 2016 Botswana ordered 50 MICA missiles for a single VL MICA surface-to-air missile system and 50 Mistral surface-to-air missiles. These were acquired from France’s MBDA for approximately €304.2 million.
The VL MICA is a short range, ground based air defence system deploying the MICA fire-and-forget missile, capable of being fitted with either a heat-seeking homing head or with an active radar seeker head. Interception range is up to 20 km.
The Mistral man-portable air defence system (MANPADS) is a short range weapon using a fire-and-forget heat-seeking missile with a range of up to 6 km. It is normally operated by a gunner and a crew commander. However, if the mission is carried out in a simple tactical environment, it can be operated by one single soldier. Mistral entered series production in 1989 and over 16 000 missiles have been ordered by more than 27 countries.
According to defence export and Director at African Defence Review, Darren Olivier, some of the equipment appears to have arrived at the port of Walvis Bay before being transported to Botswana. “The trucks seem to be part of the VL MICA ground-based air defence system, which we know that the BDF recently acquired, and the Panhard VBL looks to have a Mistral launcher assembly fitted which again is something we know the BDF has recently acquired.”
“The wrapped vehicles look to be MOWAG Piranhas, which the Botswana Defence Force already operates. In 2016 it ordered an additional 45 Piranhas, which have been arriving in small batches over the past few years in convoys just like this. In other words, nothing to worry about,” Olivier said.