South Africa has not yet deployed troops to Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) stabilisation force, but pledges have been made, according to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Mozambique signed a Status of Forces agreement allowing the SADC deployment, but it is not clear who will be going or when.
Mapisa-Nqakula, briefing Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) on 18 July, said South Africa was due to deploy a rapid deployment force to Mozambique on 15 July as part of the SADC mission, but this did not happen because the status of forces agreement was not signed. South African soldiers are currently deployed across the country under Operation Prosper to quell violent unrest.
South Africa will provide the force commander for the SADC deployment. Mapisa-Nqakula said the rapid deployment force scheduled for Mozambique would identify challenges and if it found the security situation adequate, possibly a full SADC brigade might not be deployed.
A weekend media release by SADC presented instruments of authority for deployment of the SADC Standby Force to Mozambique. According to Stergomena Tax, the regional bloc executive secretary, this “marks a major step in the regional effort to combat terrorism and violent extremism in the northern part of Cabo Delgado Provide (sic) in Mozambique”.
Deployment of the Standby Force was approved by a SADC Summit last month – after a third extraordinary summit of its heads of state and government and a similar number of meetings of the regional bloc’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security seeking to stop violent insurgency in northern Mozambique.
One who wants any South African military involvement in Mozambique put on hold while the country deals with “ruinous arson and looting” is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. At the weekend, when the sparse details of the SADC Mozambique Standby Force were made public, he said South Africa’s limited defence capabilities were presently “stretched to the limit” and priority should go to stabilising South Africa’s internal security situation and restoring law and order.
Marais maintains South African continental military assistance obligations can only happen if there is “a stable and secure internal security situation”.
Accompanying the SADC release is a photograph of Tax handing a SADC flag to a two-star general in SA National Defence Force (SANDF) uniform. No mention is made of his name and service affiliation in the release which deals, in broad terms, with the Standby Force. There is no reference to setting up and mobilising a SADC rapid deployment force (RDF) which some reports had it was due to move into the east African country last week. As with the Standby Force, no details of the RDF were made public.
On the Standby Force, SADC said its force commander in Mozambique will work with a special representative of the chair of its Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
Tax is quoted in the release as saying: “SADC is confident in the capabilities and abilities of leaders appointed to lead the SADC Mission to lead men and women in uniform to achieve the desired objectives of attaining peace and security in Cabo Delgado and create a peaceful environment for the people of Mozambique and the region”.
The SADC Force Commander pledged not to disappoint “by executing the mandate with utmost diligence and commitment”.