A South African Navy (SAN) Valour Class frigate with a Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) element aboard is doing duty in Mozambican waters as the maritime service’s contribution to the South African Operation Vikela, in support of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) effort to rid Mozambique of ASWJ (Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah) insurgents.
Along with SA Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopters, and soon to be bolstered SA Army elements, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is one of eight SADC countries which – to date – have committed manpower and materiel to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).
SAS Spioenkop (F147) is, according to Captain Anelisiwe Tamela, conducting barrier coastal patrols in the SAMIM area of operations (AOO). She is assisted in this tasking by the Tanzanian Navy (providing the TNS Fatundu) and FADM (Forças Armadas de Defesa de Moçambique), the Mozambican armed forces. MRS personnel stand ready to act against suspicious vessels possibly involved in smuggling, reinforcement or aiding terrorists in the AOO. A SAAF Oryx helicopter is supporting SAS Spioenkop.
Another SANDF communication officer, Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Kevin Maytham, elaborated on the MRS role.
“As part of the barrier patrol, MRS boat crews conduct shallow water island patrols. This entails regular launching of the Dorado boats from Spioenkop to ensure a visible presence in the AOR (Area of Responsibility) providing credible deterrence to terrorist activity in and around the islands [in the Mozambique Channel].”
This, Tamela maintains, “demonstrates the SANDF’s commitment in support of Mozambique to combat acts of terrorism and violent extremism by neutralising the threat and restoring security to create a secure environment”.
No timeframe is given for the deployment with one communication officer stating “Spioenkop’s involvement with Op Vikela has proven eventful and successful”.
Spioenkop set sail for Mozambique on 2 March.
In addition to Operation Vikela, at the beginning of April SANDF Commander-in-Chief President Cyril Ramaphosa informed Parliament 200 SANDF personnel will be committed to an SADC maritime security “obligation” to counter “the threat of piracy and related illegal activities in the Indian Ocean” until 31 March next year as part of Operation Copper.
These maritime patrols, until now concentrated in the Mozambique Channel, will cost R154 million.