SA infantry, pathfinders heading to Mozambique

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In order to relieve and reinforce South African Special Forces in Mozambique, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be deploying a combat group to Cabo Delgado comprising soldiers from 2 South African Infantry Battalion and pathfinders from 1 Parachute Battalion.

The combat group, known as Combat Team Alpha according to News24, will be in place within the next few weeks. A senior SANDF source told Janes that the group being contributed to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) will comprise the motorised 2 South African Infantry Battalion reinforced with a company and pathfinder teams from 1 Parachute Battalion and tactical intelligence teams.

Between 60 and 80 armoured personnel carriers (mostly Casspirs) are expected to be sent to Pemba in Cabo Delgado.

In addition, a Special Forces Group from 4 Special Forces Regiment will relieve the one from 5 Special Forces Regiment that has been deployed since July 2021 and which has been the main SANDF element in Mozambique up until now.

South Africa in July last year committed up to 1 495 members of the SANDF to support Mozambique “to combat the acts of terrorism and violent extremists that affected the area of Cabo Delgado Province.” The latest deployment was originally part of the 1 495 members committed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Janes notes that the SA Navy may deploy one of its frigates for interdiction patrols off the coast of Cabo Delgado together with elements of the Maritime Reaction Squadron. The Navy briefly deployed a strike craft to Mozambique last year, but has struggled with vessel availability.

At present, the South African Air Force has two Oryx helicopters in Mozambique. The first South African combat casualty, in December 2021 (Corporal Tebogo Radebe), prompted calls for additional troops and equipment to be sent to Mozambique, including Rooivalk attack helicopters.

In the 2022 national budget delivered to Parliament on Wednesday, National Treasury noted that South Africa’s national security hinges on the stability, unity and prosperity of the African continent, particularly the Southern African Development Community region. “As such, the department [of Defence] will continue to participate in operations to support peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Mozambique as part of the SADC standby force. These deployments will also assist the department in achieving 100 per cent compliance with its SADC standby force pledge and external operations. To maintain these deployment activities, R2.7 billion is allocated over the medium term in the Force Employment programme.”

The Force Employment allocation for 2021/22 is R4.4 billion, dropping to R3.7 billion in 2022/23, and R3.64 billion in 2023/24, before climbing back to R3.76 billion in 2024/25. This 17% decrease from 2021/22 to 2022/23 will struggle to support the SANDF and its deployed forces.

In his Armed Forces Day speech on 21 February, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that, “Our military, like every other organ of state, has had to conduct its substantial operations in the face of extremely limited resources and a growing catalogue of commitments.

“I commend the leadership of our military and all members of our armed forces for fulfilling their responsibilities even as we grapple with funding challenges that affect various defence programmes and development activities.

“We are looking, within these constraints, at ways to better resource our defence force with the tools they need to fulfil their mandate.”

However, it seems that ‘better resourcing’ the SANDF did not transpire in the 2022 budget as the Department of Defence is getting R49 billion in 2022/23 and just R47.9 billion in 2023/24. For 2024/25, it is allocated R49.2 billion.