An indication of the commitment Denel Group company Mechem has to bringing peace to war-torn Somalia is in the number of people it has on the ground.
In 2009 there were only nine Denel/Mechem personnel members working in the East African country. Today this number stands at 461 and they are, according to Denel chief executive Riaz Saloojee, “running a number of small, self-contained UN camps”.
Three are in the capital Mogadishu and the other three are in Baidoa, Garowe and Kismaayo, close to the Kenya/Somalia border.
This expanded number of Mechem people, including Somalis, South Africans and other foreign nationals, performs vital support services to various UN-led initiatives, Denel said. These services come from a specialist Mechem business unit which does facility maintenance, catering and laundry services as well as trauma medicine and driver training for mine-protected vehicles.
“Our activities in Somalia are a demonstration of Denel’s commitment to peace processes in Africa,” Saloojee said, adding the work underway in the East African country illustrated “versatility and capacity” in the provision of high-level support and advice on activities outside the defence and security environment.
Through Mechem, Denel has contracts with three UN agencies – UNOPS, responsible for infrastructure and peace-building, including mine action services; UNSOA, which delivers logistical support to the AU Mission; and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), co-ordinating rural development and poverty reduction programmes.
Fifty-three offices, 420 bedrooms, eight kitchens and ablution facilities are on the list of daily cleaning tasks as well as preparing three meals for 510 people in Mogadishu. More than 21 tons of linen and clothing are laundered every month.
Denel/Mechem was partially responsible for building offices and accommodation for UN personnel and continues with maintenance services on electricity, plumbing and other mechanical aspects of the UN occupied buildings.
Security is provided by other contractors with Denel responsible for the management of this service and its integration into the daily activities of the camps. A qualified trauma medic, provided by Denel, is responsible for primary health care, emergencies and health and safety issues.
Denel/Mechem does not provide demining and bomb disposal services to Somalia. However, the UN Mine Action Service makes use of Denel’s Casspir mine protected vehicles and Denel’s team of mechanics is responsible for keeping this fleet and its support vehicles, including front-end loaders and bulldozers, operational.
Saloojee sees this type of service becoming more an integral part of the overall Denel offering.
“We have the capacity and experience to provide similar services to other AU and UN missions across the continent,” he said adding “significant opportunities” to broaden the range of field facilities available from Denel would improve the company’s revenue stream.
Among the facilities Saloojee sees finding their way onto the Denel/Mechem menu are security systems and monitoring, ammunition management, water purification as well as small airfield management.