President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that up to 1 500 South African National Defence Force members would be deployed to Mozambique made no mention of the equipment that would accompany them. Now, images have emerged of the armoured vehicles, ships and other vehicles that are supporting the South African contingent.
Videos circulating on social media showed convoys of vehicles in Mozambique, including Casspir armoured personnel carriers, Mfezi armoured ambulances, Toyota Land Cruisers fitted with what appear to be anti-aircraft artillery, Samil trucks, tankers and bakkies. One convoy caught on video comprised over a dozen vehicles.
The vehicles, believed to be from 43 SA Brigade, were first seen moving through the border post of Ressano Garcia at Komatipoort on Saturday 31 July.
In addition to vehicles on land, naval vessels arrived in Pemba over the weekend. The SA Navy’s offshore patrol vessel SAS Makhanda was seen alongside Mozambican naval vessels, and will form part of the maritime contingent of the Southern African Development Community’s intervention brigade (SADC Mission in Mozambique). SA Navy patrol vessels are no stranger to Mozambican waters, having undertaken a number of patrols in the Mozambique Channel under Operation Copper.
In the air, South African Air Force C-130BZ Hercules transports have been flying between Air Force Base Waterkloof and Pemba. They were first seen delivering South African Special Forces and their Hornet vehicles in mid-July. At least one Cessna Caravan is based at Pemba – it may be fitted with the Koiler observation system for surveillance flights.
Major General Xolani Mankayi, formerly the commander of 43 SA Brigade, has been appointed the SADC intervention brigade’s force commander, with a Botswana general acting as his second-in-command.
Botswana on 26 July formally dispatched 300 troops to Mozambique as part of its contribution to the SADC force whilst South Africa has authorised the deployment of up to 1 495 South African National Defence Force members to Mozambique between 15 July and 15 October. Advance elements from South Africa and Botswana arrived in Mozambique in mid-July.
Botswana Defence Force (BDF) vehicles were seen moving through Gondola, Mozambique, on 31 July. One of the convoys captured on video revealed two dozen vehicles, including trucks and armoured vehicles being transported on low bed trucks – although hidden by camouflage nets, these are likely to be Mowag Piranha 8×8 armoured vehicles. The trucks included MAN TG 4x4s as well as water/fuel tankers, recovery vehicles etc.
Angola announced last week announced it had approved a contingent for Mozambique, for three months. The 30-strong contingent will depart on 6 August. Zimbabwe will send 304 soldiers to help train Mozambican security forces while non-SADC member Rwanda has sent 1 000 troops under a separate bilateral agreement.
South Africa’s deployment to Mozambique will cost R984 million, according to a presidential letter dated 23 July. According to the letter, the South African military contingent is in Mozambique in fulfilment of an international obligation toward the Southern African Development Community in order to support Mozambique to combat acts of terrorism and violent extremism in Cabo Delgado province.
Jasmine Opperman, an analyst at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), told eNCA that the three-month deployment of the SANDF will not even be close enough to make a difference. “To make a difference in Cabo Delgado, three months is not enough. We are looking at…a two to three year presence to create stability to enable development, to enable humanitarian support… a three months deployment will only favour the insurgents, who will benefit their propaganda voice via the Islamic State and will simply be exposing our soldiers to a rushed engagement on the battlefield.”
Defence expert Helmoed Heitman echoed similar sentiments, telling Cape Talk that “three months is not enough… It takes a lot of time. There’s no quick fix.” He said South Africa should have deployed forces to Mozambique last year already as “it’s not in our interest for any country in the neighbourhood to fall apart… In our own interest, we would like Mozambique to be stable and prosperous.”