SA Navy chief pledges ship visit to China

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The South African Navy (SAN) is undergoing a rebuilding and maintenance phase to get its vessels out to sea and once this is completed, at least one vessel will be sent to China for a visit.

This is according to SAN Chief, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, who made the remarks on 24 July during the arrival of a Chinese Navy taskforce in Cape Town.

“As you are aware the South African Navy is currently undergoing a rebuilding and maintenance phase to prepare our vessels to proceed to sea. Once this is completed, I give you my assurance that I will deploy one or more of the SA Navy vessels to China. The last time that one of the SA Navy vessels was in China was in 2008, when SAS Spioenkop undertook the long voyage,” Lobese said.

“This vessel was graciously met by the People’s Liberation Army Navy and the people of China. I trust that the South African Navy can make you and all the members of this task force feel equally welcome,” he said of the taskforce’s arrival.
The 43rd Chinese naval escort taskforce arrived in Cape Town on the morning of 24 July for a three-day goodwill visit. Having wrapped up its escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, the naval escort taskforce proceeded to the West coast of Africa, making a number of calls, including to the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The taskforce is composed of the guided-missile destroyer Nanning (162), the guided-missile frigate Sanya (54) and the supply ship Weishanhu (887). It set sail from a military port in Zhanjiang city, southeast China’s Guangdong province, on 10 January, accompanied by two ship-borne helicopters and more than 700 sailors. This is destroyer Nanning’s first escort mission.

On 25 July, the taskforce paid a courtesy call to Fleet Command Headquarters in Simon’s Town where Flag Officer Fleet, Rear Admiral Musawenkosi Nkomonde and his team hosted them. Both the Navies took time to reflect on the activities they are engaged in and also talked about the importance of further strengthening the relationship between the two Navies through more practical exercises at sea, the SA Navy said.

Lobese recalled that South Africa had two very successful Exercise Mosis with Russia and China, in 2019 and 2023. “Under my leadership of the South African Navy I would like to give you my assurance that the relationship between South Africa, Russian and China will go from strength to strength.”

“The formal Diplomatic Relationship between South Africa and China celebrates its 25th year this year. The trade between our nations have also increased tremendously in this period. From less than R1 billion in 1998, to more than R544 billion in 2021. China is now by far the largest trading partner of South Africa, and in turn, South Africa is the largest trading partner of China on the African continent. This great relationship between our countries will grow from strength to strength each year,” Lobese told the Chinese visitors.

“This visit to South Africa by your vessels comes on the eve of a historic BRICS summit which will take place in a few short weeks from now, right here in South Africa. It is my country’s turn to be the Chair of BRICS this year. I am sure that all of you share my excitement for the how BRICS is poised to reshape the geopolitical landscape of the entire world. Already there are many countries from the Global South who would like to be part of BRICS. This speaks volumes of how the nations of the world would like to see an end to the dominance of the West, and the way in which they are trying to dictate terms on the Global Stage.

“I look forward to the day when we as the South African Navy can go and visit your beautiful country,” Lobese said.

With regard to getting the SA Navy fleet back at sea, National Treasury has allocated R1.4 billion for the refit of one of its three Type 209 submarines and one of its four Meko A200 class frigates. Work will be carried out between May 2023 and December 2024, followed by sea acceptance trials in early 2025. R500 million has been allocated in 2023/24 for this, R441 million the following year, and R480 million in 2025/26. Work will be carried out in the Simons Town Naval Dockyard.