New Silvermine perimeter fence nearing completion

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It’s guard duty for the Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) of the SA Navy (SAN) while new fencing goes up at the Silvermine communications facility in the Western Cape.

The facility was targeted by vandals and thieves for cable between 2015 and 2017, which saw a tender go out for a new fence, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise told Kobus Marais, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minster for her portfolio.

She pointed out, in a written reply to a question, “no part” of the Silvermine fence was ever stolen. “It is being replaced due to its condition,” part of her reply read, adding the antenna farm at the communications facility is currently watched over by the MRS until such time as the new perimeter fence is completed. “It awaits completion of approximately four metres of underdig” followed by “handing and taking over”.

The new security fence at Silvermine will cost R13 million, with R10.5 million paid to the contractor for work completed to date.

On the overall condition of the facility, Modise informed Marais “all building infrastructure are in sound condition” with maintenance done as and when required.

She said there were no plans to decommission the Naval Communications Centre (NCC) at Silvermine “due to its strategic and operational role to South Africa and the SANDF (SA National Defence Force) (sic).”

“Additionally the Hydrographic Act places an obligation on the SAN.

“In the event of total communications equipment failure at NCC all communication services will be handled by the alternative secondary broadcast station which in Durban.”

Silvermine, at the foot of the Steenberg in the Silvermine Nature Reserve, was officially opened on March 1973 as the SA Navy Maritime Operational and Communications headquarters. From here the maritime service executed operational command and control of maritime forces.

The base now houses to Join Tactical Headquarters Western Cape, the SAN Hydrographic Office (SANHO), Defence Intelligence Directorate Electronic Collection Sub–section Shipping Information, Display and Analysis Section, Maritime Domain Awareness Centre, Western Cape Naval Communication Centre, 21 Signal Regiment and 526 Squadron. It is the major military communication and intelligence hub in Western Cape. As part of Project Hotel, the hydrographic office facilities have been upgraded. Project Hotel will also see acquisition of a new hydrographic survey vessel and related equipment including workboats for the SAN.