Mr R A Lees (DA-KZN) to ask the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans:
1.Whether the SA Navy has sent any warships into the seas near to or in the vicinity of Cote d’Ivoire; if so (a) what are the details of the warships that are involved and (b) what is the purpose of sending these warships;
2.Whether these vessels will be used to intervene in the election dispute that is currently existing in Cote d’Ivoire; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?
No, the South African Navy has not sent any war ships into the sea in or around the vicinity of Côte d’Ivoire. What we have done, however, is to send into the international waters of the Gulf of Guinea the SAS Drakensberg. The SAS Drakensberg is a combat support vessel, which allows for much cargo and accommodation space. I must say from the outset that she cannot be used for any other matter than what she equipped for and what she is capable of.
She is always sent out in accordance with international convention and the Constitution of the Republic. Here is what the South African government confirmed on 16 February 2011:
“The South African Navy support vessel, SAS Drakensberg, had planned to participate in the communication and guard vessel for the 2011 Cape to Rio Yacht Race during the period January to February.
The vessel was, at that particular time also required to conduct practicals in training. The SAS Drakensberg was diverted from participating in the Cape to Rio Yacht Race to embark on a mission in the Gulf of Guinea. The South African government further confirmed that it instructed the SANDF to preposition the South African Navy vessel, SAS Drakensberg in the Gulf of Guinea for possible assistance to South African diplomats, designated personnel and other South Africans in the Côte d’Ivoire, should the situation require that this should happen.
This is in line with international procedure, should there be a volatile situation in any country, it is the country’s responsibility to ensure that the citizens are evacuated, this is what we did and we used the presence of the SAS Drakensberg in the Gulf of Guinea to do this. The SAS Drakensberg is presently off the Gulf of Guinea and on the coast of Ghana for the purpose of replenishing rations and exchange of training cruise.
The vessel had been in international waters since it left South Africa and only entered the waters of Ghana to replenish with the full knowledge of the Ghanaian authorities. She will proceed back into international waters once this is completed. To date, the SAS Drakensberg has not, at any stage, entered the Ivorian territorial waters.”