Drakensberg now on humanitarian duty in Mozambique


SAS Drakensberg (A301) is steaming up the east coast of southern Africa loaded with a cargo of much-needed humanitarian aid following completion of an Operation Copper anti-piracy mission in the Mozambique Channel.

The humanitarian aid forms part of international support, including from South Africa, to assist in rebuilding cyclone damaged Mozambique. Estimates are Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in March, caused damage running into billions of dollars, destroying houses, farms, roads and other infrastructure in the process.

Drakensberg was on station in the busy Mozambique Channel shipping lane from early July. While no exact date was given for the anti-piracy mission to end, the 32-year-old fleet replenishment vessel was ordered back to Durban to load up humanitarian aid and steam to Beira, the city worst-hit by the tropical cyclone. Loading started at Naval Base Durban last Saturday and the 12 500 ton vessel departed the east coast port on Wednesday (31 July).

An SA National Defence Force (SANDF) statement has it that the replenishment platform will be doing the Beira/Durban/Beira run again carrying more much-needed aid for beleaguered Mozambicans.

SANDF Joint Operations Chief, Lieutenant General Barney Hlatshwayo, said the national defence force was ready to assist the people of Mozambique rebuild their lives after the natural disaster.

While deployed on the Operation Copper mission, Drakensberg was a temporary home base for elements of the SA Navy Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) and a detachment of Mozambique marines. A number of Mozambique Navy fast patrol craft were also part of the mission.

The SA Navy’s previous Operation Copper deployment with the frigate SAS Amatola (F145) set for April was scuppered by technical and manpower problems compounded by Cyclone Idai.

South Africa gave R135 million to the governments of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to help Cyclone Idai rescue and rebuilding operations. The SANDF has deployed engineers to rebuild bridges in neighbouring Zimbabwe.