President Ramaphosa extends Op Vikela until April 2023


South African military personnel and materiel will be in northern Mozambique until mid-April next year in support of what President Cyril Ramaphosa writes is “a South African international obligation towards [the] Southern African Development (SADC) community”.

This is per a letter from Ramaphosa, also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), to National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula dated 14 April.

South Africa’s first citizen uses the letter to inform the country’s elected public representatives the “employment” of 1 495 SANDF members is extended for a further 12 month period at a cost of R2 794 649 682.

Questioning the R2 billion plus expenditure, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said it was “mind-boggling” when viewed against the financial situation of Minister Thandi Modise’s major responsibility. He pointed to overspend of “a similar amount” on salaries, shortfalls on maintenance and “absence of capex acquisitions” as reasons why the commitment of R2.7 billion from the defence budget should not have been done without additional funding.

Earlier this month, General Rudzani Maphwanya, SANDF Chief, told the media SADC as a region is funding the SAMIM deployment; part of it is covered by its peace fund. The SADC Secretariat worked out modalities for each participating nation to bring resources and some form of disbursement is currently being looked at.

The extension comes after Ramaphosa told the country via its public representatives in the NA and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) by way of correspondence with Mapisa-Nqakula in February that he was keeping 1 495 SANDF personnel in the east African country until 15 April. The South Africans are part of the eight-nation SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) taking on “violent extremists” in Cabo Delgado. South Africa has been part of SAMIM since it was operationalised last July. The initial three month “employment” (used in Presidential letters/minutes to describe activation of national defence force elements) was extended by a further three months in October, making the latest extension the fourth.

In addition to SADC members Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia contributing to SAMIM, a thousand strong contingent from Rwanda is also in Mozambique fighting Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) and affiliates in the country’s northern province.

An SADC Extraordinary Summit of the Organ Troika of the Heads of State and Government in Pretoria earlier this month approved SAMIM’s “transit” from its Scenario Six status to Scenario Five. Scenario Six is, in part, described as an “intervention for example, in genocide situations where the international community does not act promptly” and the continental body terms Scenario Five as “a peacekeeping force for complex multi-dimensional peacekeeping missions, including those involving low-level spoilers”.

A Parliamentary Communication Services statement, dated 22 April, has it the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) “considered” three Presidential letters regarding military deployments without going into detail. They were for the Indian Ocean anti-piracy tasking Operation Copper, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) peacekeeping (Operation Mistral) as part of MONUSCO and Operation Vikela combatting terrorism and violent extremism in northern Mozambique.