The SA Navy has again had to revert to using communication links in Durban and aboard a submarine to maintain contact with the SAS Amatola currently transiting the west coast of Africa en route to the English Channel.
This has been necessitated by the theft of antenna and copper cabling from the Navy’s communication centre at Silvermine, according to Afrikaans weekly Rapport.
The theft of what was then said to be “substantial quantities” of copper cable in March 2013 from the same centre was downplayed by military authorities. Communication with ships at sea, including SAS Mendi at that time in the Mozambique Channel on anti-piracy duty and maritime aircraft patrols remained good, a spokesman said.
“Satellite communication links are totally unaffected and the Naval Communications Centre Durban is covering for communications that cannot be covered by Silvermine’s lower field (where cabling was stolen),” the spokesman said.
This time around, the Navy is maintaining contact with Amatola using the Durban Naval Communications Centre’s equipment again and a Type 209 Heroine Class submarine, apparently deployed for communications but doing training at the same time.
According to Rapport, military police are concerned about the theft which saw what the newspaper called “giant antennas” illegally removed from next to the entrance to the underground communications centre and then past Navy guards at the entrance to the complex. All indications are the theft was well-planned and executed over a period of time with trenches dug to remove copper cable.
Apart from the thefts at Silvermine, albeit almost four years apart, the maritime service of the SA National Defence Forces (SANDF) last July suffered the indignity of having its armoury at Simon’s Town, fleet headquarters, broken into and weapons ranging from assault rifles to hand grenades, submachineguns and detonators stolen.
The incidents have again seen questions asked about security at military bases and facilities. The Democratic Alliance’s Dan Plato maintains stolen weapons are being sold to gangs in Western Cape while the party’s chief whip in the province, Mark Wiley, warned of a climate of lawlessness and decay taking hold in part of Naval Base Simon’s Town.
There was no official reaction or comment to the Silvermine theft from the Navy with indications it would not be forthcoming because it was “an operational matter”.