South Africa and Iran cement defence ties


South Africa and Iran have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation during a visit by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan to Pretoria.

The agreement was signed with his counterpart Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on 13 December. The two day visit was the first by an Iranian defence minister since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and was at Mapisa-Nqakula’s invitation.

The MoU includes cooperation on marine security and exchanging experiences on fighting organized crimes. Speaking to reporters after the signing, the ministers said the two countries had agreed to make efforts to promote regional and international peace, stability and security and engage in a firm and all-out campaign against terrorism.

The MoU came after two Iranian naval vessels, IRIS Alavand and IRIS Boushehr, docked in Durban on 15 November after a stop in Tanzania following their counter-piracy mission off the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden. In mid-September, Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari travelled to South Africa to expand defence and naval ties between the two countries.

South Africa and Iran halted bilateral cooperation during the Apartheid period. In January 1984, Iran announced the end of trade and economic sanctions against the country and diplomatic relations were re-established in May 1994. The relationship between both countries has progressed over the last few years by Iran’s anti-apartheid credentials and South Africa’s consistent diplomatic support for a peaceful Iranian nuclear programme.

In April 2016, both countries signed eight agreements on cooperation in trade, agriculture, oil resources amongst others during a state visit to Tehran by South African president Jacob Zuma. South African telecommunication giant MTN owns 49% of Irancell Telecommunication Services.