SANDF Chief visits Cabo Delgado, urges collaboration between deployed forces


General Rudzani Maphwanya, Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), has visited Rwandan and Mozambican military forces in Cabo Delgado and urged commanders to keep up collaborative efforts to defeat terrorists in the province.

The SANDF delegation on Wednesday 19 January visited Rwanda Security Forces (RSF) headquarters at Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique, the Rwandan Ministry of Defence reports. The city was held by insurgents for months before being recaptured by Rwandan and Mozambican forces in August last year.

Maphwanya was accompanied by Lieutenant General Bertolino Jeremias Capetine – the Mozambican Deputy Chief of General Staff, Major General Xolani Mankayi – the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) Force Commander, and other senior officers from the SANDF, SAMIM and the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM).

The delegation was received by the Joint Task Force Commander (JTFC), Major General Innocent Kabandana, who briefed them on the security situation and operations against the insurgents.

Maphwanya said that the purpose of his tour in Mozambique was to visit SAMIM troops and Rwandan leadership. He commended the cooperation between Rwandan, Mozambican and SAMIM forces and urged commanders on the ground to sustain the existing collaboration in a bid to defeat the enemy forces remaining in Cabo Delgado, allowing displaced persons to return home and revive socio-economic activity, thus paving the way to long-lasting peace.

Maphwanya, who is also the Chairman of the SADC Troika Chiefs of Defence, reiterated that a recent SADC Chiefs of Defence meeting recommended additional resources be deployed to SAMIM, which will enhance the forces’ operational capacity. He also noted the need for joint planning and the expeditious execution of joint operations in order to defeat the insurgents.

Maphwanya’s push for more resources comes after South Africa lost its first soldier (Corporal Tebogo Radebe) in Mozambique last month. The incident occurred on 20 December when SANDF members came under attack from insurgents during an ambush around the area east of Chai village in Cabo Delgado. The members managed to fight through the ambush, but while at the rendezvous point awaiting a helicopter evacuation, they were again attacked by the insurgents and an SANDF Special Forces member was shot and declared dead on the scene. Several SAMIM forces have been killed in combat, and dozens of insurgents killed over the last few months.

Two South African Air Force Oryx helicopters are deployed to Mozambique, but more are needed and there have been calls for helicopter gunships and other assets to assist SAMIM forces.

Darren Olivier, director at African Defence Review, warned that, “The SADC mission in Mozambique is ridiculously under-resourced for the task it has been given, and if the mission is simply extended without a change to that then we should expect many more casualties along with potential mission failures.”

Kabandana on Wednesday said he appreciated the existing collaboration and cooperation between Rwandan, Mozambican and SAMIM forces, which have seen positive results. He reiterated the need to plan and conduct joint offensive operations to dismantle the main terrorist bases in Chai and others in Pundanhiar and Nicha de Ruvuma.

On 10 January, Rwandan and Mozambican defence officials met in Kigali and signed an agreement expanding cooperation in the fight against the insurgency. The agreement concluded a series of discussions between Mozambique and Rwanda to review the security situation in Cabo Delgado.

Military operations continue around Mocimboa da Praia and Palma. Security expert Jasmine Opperman notes that earlier this week, numerous insurgents have been killed or captured in these districts. Insurgent attacks increased significantly in Nangade, Macomia, and Meluco, with more than 20 reported attacks in the last three weeks.

“Declaring an area ‘cleared from insurgents’ in counter-insurgency is seldom a reflection of actual realities,” she cautioned, as attacks are taking place in previously secured areas.

The Southern African Development Community in June 2021 sent troops to help Mozambique respond to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, which has killed thousands since 2017 and displaced nearly a million. Rwanda also deployed up to 1 000 army and police forces to the restive province.

According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), since the insurgency began in 2017, there have been 1 111 cases of organised political violence, 3 627 reported fatalities from organised political violence, and 1 587 reported fatalities from organised violence targeting civilians in Mozambique.

Earlier this month, the SADC at a summit agreed to extend their troop deployment in Mozambique. The SADC troop deployment was initially for three months from mid-July but it was extended in October.