Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s final contribution as defence minister was informing the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) that President Cyril Ramaphosa was asked to reduce the number of troops deployed internally in the wake of last month’s violent civil unrest.
Just over an hour after she addressed one of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees, Mapisa-Nqakula heard Ramaphosa, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, inform the nation she was no longer Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. That Cabinet post is now held by former National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise.
The long-serving former defence minister is reported as telling the JSCD 15 000 soldiers will return to bases from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal leaving 10 000 mostly in the east coast province which is “calm, but volatile”. Soldiers also remain on active duty in the Western Cape, which is beset by taxi violence and where Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier this week indicated an agreement was reached between taxi associations warring over routes.
Mapisa-Nqakula re-assured the JSCD the South African military contingent now in Mozambique as part of Operation Vikela (“protect” in isiZulu) has not affected or compromised the internal deployment under the ongoing Operation Prosper codename. This sees the national defence force assist other government departments and entities.
Elements of the SA Air Force (SAAF), SA Army and SA Navy (SAN) are in or on station in Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique).
In a short presentation to the JSCD, SANDF Joint Operations Division Chief Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni confirmed, but did not name, 10 SANDF officers who will serve as force commander and chief of staff for the multinational force; three in the SAMIM regional co-ordinating mechanism and a further 10 as staff officers at SAMIM force headquarters.
Committee members heard the South African maritime and strategic intelligence force elements were in position as was a composite landward battalion.
These deployments, according to the three-star general, are in line with pledged SADC Standby Force commitments.
The SANDF deployment to Mozambique is for three months at a cost of R984 million for up to 1 495 personnel, but may be extended.
A JSCD statement issued after the meeting “underlined the importance of regional stability in supporting the SANDF deployment in Mozambique to combat terrorism and violent extremists” in Cabo Delgado.
Committee co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng say in the statement: “We recognise the threat posed by extremist actions not only to Mozambique but to SADC as a whole. Our support of the deployment is based on the need to protect and promote SADC objectives which include economic development, peace and security and growth, alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of lives of people in Southern Africa being undermined and threatened by insurgents.
“We are confident in the ability, capability and fortitude of our armed forces and confident they will execute their mandate successfully. We are convinced there is a need to suppress the insurgency at source to prevent it spilling over into neighbouring countries.”
As part of ongoing efforts to secure a better funding deal for South Africa’s armed forces from National Treasury, the JSCD will use its budget review and recommendation mechanism to increase the defence budget.
“The committee is confident funding challenges will not be an impediment to the successful execution of Op Vikela,” they said.