Second Russian/Chinese/SA naval exercise set for February

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Today (Friday, 4 November) sees the conclusion of the main planning conference for a second tri-nation naval exercise involving China, Russia and South Africa.

South Africa is, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) social media communicator Warrant Officer 1 Oupa Moraile posts, the host nation with Russia named lead nation. Apart from acknowledging the presence of senior Chinese PLAN (Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy), Russian and South African naval officers, he does not give either dates or venues for the exercise. A defenceWeb enquiry to the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) resulted in this publication being informed the exercise will happen in February in “KwaZulu-Natal province”. More information will apparently be forthcoming after a final planning conference set for next month (December).

The exercise remains nameless with the first joint Russia/Sino/South African exercise in South African waters in November 2019 named Mosi by the SANDF.

While the South African naval fraternity welcomes the exercise, as it does all opportunities to hone skills and learn from interactions with other navies, such as the just completed Exercise Ibsamar (with India but not Brazil), one strongly opposed to it is Kobus Marais.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans, using the Russian foray into Ukraine as his motivation, points out the SA National Defence Force in the form of its maritime service, will “happily participate in a so-called tri-national naval exercise with the Russian Navy while Ukrainians live in fear of when the next bomb drops or rocket strikes”.

He has harsh words for Modise, saying the exercise decision is “a terrible error of judgement” by her and the South African government. This is in view of the world’s opposition to Russian military transgressions in Ukraine and “potential consequences for greylisting”. This term is used by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering organisation aiming to halt, among others, financing terrorism. In economic terms, greylisting refers to global attempts to prevent illicit funds being channelled to terrorism. It is also an indication of risk the world attaches to a country’s companies and individuals as counter-parties to transactions.

“Participation in this exercise confirms without doubt the South African government’s support of Russia for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. The UN (United Nations) and countries around the world publicly condemned this invasion, yet the South African government, which considers itself a human rights champion, has not,” he said.

Marais is critical of the exercise cost pointing out there are “huge” constraints in the defence budget making it “mind boggling” for the SANDF to spend money on the tri-nation naval exercise.

“There is not nearly enough money available for maintenance and acquisition of essential prime mission equipment, essential resources for soldiers deployed in hostile environment and for them to protect the territorial integrity of South Africa. Government, including Modise and the SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa is clearly prepared to sacrifice the safety of our soldiers and our citizens to their bowing to please the Russians,” he said, adding South Africa is now portrayed “as a country that sides with Russian war criminals”.