An indication of the importance the Department of Defence (DoD) attaches to international relations through what it terms “a layered approach” in support of government foreign policy is the presence of South African defence attaches in 42 countries as well as the African Union and United Nations with a further 21 non-resident.
Apart from the representative bodies, which include the EU, senior South African military officers from all four services were on attaché tours of duty in the 2020/21 financial year.
Countries hosting South African defence attachés are Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Spain, South Sudan, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Non-residential defence attachés kept a weather eye on comings and goings, military-wise, in Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Guinea, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Tanzania, Tunisia and Uruguay.
According to the latest DoD annual report, “diplomacy actions by the DoD varied between focussed efforts and indirect actions with a defence diplomacy impact”.
“Focussed efforts included defence representation as well as bilateral and multilateral meetings. The DoD contributed indirectly through participation in functional and developmental training with foreign defence forces and attendance at conferences and seminars.
“The benefits of international military co-operation gave impetus to the defence diplomacy agenda of the DoD.”
The report further notes Minister Thandi Modise’s department, via its defence attaché corps participated in multilateral engagements relating to UN and AU initiatives.
The period under review also saw the South African diplomatic military corps involved in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Organ Troika Summit, the MONUSCO Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) as well as troop contributing countries to the UN DRC mission and the world body’s Mechanism Co-ordination Committee led by the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation.