Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veteran minister Kobus Marais is diplomatic in his choice of words to describe the upcoming Russian/Sino/South African naval exercise Mosi II next month.
He notes in a statement Exercise Mosi II is “cause for concern” adding “most, if not all, SA Navy (SAN) vessels are unserviceable”.
The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), according to him, cannot fulfil Constitutional obligations as regards even maritime patrol and reconnaissance.
“South Africa hardly has sufficient resources to comply with basic SA naval requirements and obligations to protect the nation’s integrity and secure the safety of our people. To waste money on this fruitless exercise is irrational, irresponsible and unacceptable. There can be little if any real benefit for the SANDF given the enormous resource constraints it has to deal with on a daily basis.
“Our first priority must be essential maintenance and upgrades to our naval vessels,” he said.
On the timing of the exercise coinciding with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Marais said: “It is an awkward time in global geopolitical history due to the Russian war in Ukraine and the devastation of civilian targets in Ukraine”.
“While the South African government claims to be neutral, this is another of many incidents where the majority party has shown its favouritism toward Russia and has in fact done nothing but showcase and prove government’s bias.
“As the clear dominant partner in Exercise Mosi II, it is obvious the value for Russia is to showcase its geopolitical influence in southern Africa as part of global war games against NATO and the USA (United States of America).”
He adds: “The DA will not stop opposing this silly exercise and we will continue to fight for the best and sustained interests of all South Africans in the broader international trade environment”.
The exercise is scheduled for 17 to 27 February between Durban and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. It will coincide with Armed Forces Day on 21 February.
The first Exercise Mosi was held in November 2019 in Cape Town. This year’s edition will see over 350 SANDF personnel from the four arms of service and various divisions participating alongside their Russian and Chinese counterparts “with an aim of sharing operational skills and knowledge,” according to SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Andries Mahapa.
Speculation is the Russian Navy will send the guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov to South Africa along with the oiler Kama. The SAN is expected to provide the new inshore patrol vessel SAS King Sekhukhune I and the hydrographic survey vessel SAS Protea.