Modise defends Exercise Mosi II with Russia and China

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Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise has defended the trilateral naval Exercise Mosi II with China and Russia, saying it benefited the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and would anyway have been expensive to cancel.

Modise, answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday 15 March, said although the Chinese and Russian navies brought their vessels, “this exercise actually benefitted the SA Navy more – not just the SA Navy, because we brought all arms of our service. It benefitted us in South Africa more than these ones who brought their vessels here because the exercises were in two parts – we dealt with inshore which was closer to home and we also dealt with the deeper ocean exercise,” said Modise.

“This was an exercise that was between three militaries that do have agreements and have exercised together before. This was also the militaries whose countries belong to sovereign states that can take decisions to continue with these exercises,” she added, pointing out that the first Exercise Mosi took place in 2019, and the second edition had been planned and budgeted for and therefore would have been expensive to cancel.

Modise reminded Parliamentarians that recently South Africa has conducted exercises with counterparts including the United Kingdom, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, China and others and has previously held exercises with the United States. “We will continue to have these exercises. We must also say to ourselves, who benefited from this exercise. It’s the South African National Defence Force because through the budget cuts over the years we’ve not been able to capacitate and update technologies so when these exercises take place, we are able to then expose the members of the national defence force to the latest technologies but we are also uniting the men who do battle. It is beneficial to South Africa.”

With regard to the accusation that South Africa has damaged its relationships with key trading partners like the United States and European Union for going ahead with Exercise Mosi II, Modise asked, “who are we talking about when we say we are damaging the chances of growing our economy? The Americans? We have been in touch with the Americans.” She said they have offered South Africa aircraft “and we intend to go fetch them.”

The minister was presumably referring to the surplus C-130 Hercules transport aircraft the United States has offered the South African Air Force.

South Africa has faced criticism for allowing Mosi II (17 to 27 February) to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (24 February), with accusations that South Africa is not neutral in the conflict and has taken Russia’s side.

“In fact, we are not neutral at all,” Modise told Parliament. “We took a stand as this country to go for dialogue, to go for mediation, to go for reconciliation. The head of state of this country continues to call on both the Russian president and the Ukrainian president. They continue to engage so that we can find that…we are not neutral at all. We are saying we cannot continue to be used as Africa. We are a sovereign state. Are we neutral when we insist on peace and peace-building? Are we neutral when we continue to call upon two warring people? We are not taking sides. We are not saying this one is wrong; this one is right. We are not neutral at all because precisely the people who have not seen blood spilt, who have not felt the pain, will easily take sides. Some of us still have scars, psychologically and otherwise, and therefore we would not want to see children in any country being exposed to what the children of Soweto, the children of Vryburg, were exposed to. And that is why we insist peace talk must ensue.”

Modise reiterated that South Africa has not sent troops to Ukraine. “All those countries that have sent troops on either side those are the people you should be pointing a finger at,” she told opposition MPs. “We are not sending troops. We continue to advocate for peace and reconciliation.”