The United States ambassador to Mozambique has described the anti-piracy agreement signed between South Africa and Mozambique as ‘innovative’. A memorandum of understanding was signed last week.
“The Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania agreement is a very innovative accord,” said US ambassador to Mozambique Leslie Rowe yesterday.
“Though (Mozambican authorities) hesitate to allow the US and Europe in their waters, they work together with Tanzania and South Africa,” Rowe added on the sidelines of a maritime security seminar in the Mozambican capital Maputo.
South African defence and security officials last Tuesday met their Mozambican counterparts to discuss fighting piracy, transnational crime and corruption at the third session of the Republic of South Africa – Republic of Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security Ministerial.
“The commission noted the successful deployment of and conducting of joint naval and air patrol[s] on the Mozambique waters [sic] that it has significantly reduced piracy activities. To support this effort a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the two countries which to enhance the effort to combat piracy activities,” the SA Department of Defence said in a statement.
“The commission further emphasised the importance of involving Tanzania in an effort to deal with piracy along the east coast and urged that given the urgency of the matter, the Trilateral MoU on Maritime Security between the RSA, Mozambique and Tanzania must be finalise[d] as soon as possible.
The South African delegation was led by Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu. The Mozambique delegation was led by Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, Minister of National.
Somali pirates struck the furthest south ever in December last year and hijacked a Spanish fishing trawler with crew of 24, the Vega 5, in northern Mozambican waters. The boat was used as a mothership to attack cargo boats in the Indian Ocean.
Indian anti-piracy ships took over the Vega 5, arresting 61 pirates and 13 of the original crew members. The other crew members were presumed drowned in the attack.
The South African Navy Valour-class frigate SAS Mendi (F148) is reported on station off Pemba port in northern Mozambique where she is conducting an anti-piracy patrol, her second this year in the northern Mozambique Channel.
President Jacob Zuma in June and July authorised the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to combat piracy and other maritime crime off the east coast of Africa. In two letters to Parliament, Zuma said the authorisation expired March 31 next year. Zuma’s first letter, to the Speaker of Parliament, dated June 17, authorised the deployment of 200 military personnel from April 21. “This serves to inform the National Assembly that I have extended the employment of 200 members of the SANDF for service in Mozambican waters and international waters to monitor and deter piracy activities along the southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.”
The second latter, to Jerome Maake, co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, dated July 20, authorised 377 personnel from April 1. “This serves to inform the Joint Standing Committee on Defence that I have employed 377 members of the SANDF personnel [sic] to the Mozambique coast for a service in fulfillment of international obligations of the Republic of SA toward the Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime security [sic], in order to minimise the threat of piracy and other illegal maritime activities.” It is not known why Zuma sent two letters to two different parliamentary officials regarding the same deployment but citing two sets of figures and two starting dates.
A SADC heads of state summit in Luanda, Angola adopted an anti-piracy strategy in August along both the east and west coasts of the continent.
Cabinet in February mandated the South African Department of Defence to develop a maritime security strategy following an incident of piracy in Mozambican waters in December. The strategy was approved by Cabinet in June. The Joint Operations Division of the SANDF deployed the Mendi, air assets and Special Forces to Mozambique in February to conduct patrols and gather intelligence.
The US donated 17 coastal patrol ships to Mozambique in the past two years as Mozambique has a weak navy and lacks resources to police its coastline, which is the second-longest in Africa after Somalia’s.