The just completed Africom-led Exercise Southern Accord happened without a South African component.
Over a period of two weeks last month more than 220 officers and non-commissioned officers from 10 countries gathered at the Malawi Armed Forces College to share knowledge and exchange ideas.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries represented were Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany providing the foreign contingent.
South Africa, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) spokesman Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, was invited.
“Planners and staff officers from Joint Operations attend the concept development and main planning events in Lilongwe in December and January.
“Ex Southern Accord took place in July. The SANDF was already committed with exercises Young Eagle, Winter Solstice, Amani Africa 11 (an AU exercise) and the upcoming ACIRC joint force preparation exercise, Exercise Seboka. The involvement of the SANDF in African peacekeeping missions and internal operations has stretched it significantly,” he said, indicating these were the reasons for the region’s largest military not taking part in Exercise Southern Accord, another Africom initiative in a broader series of military to military activities across the continent.
South Africa’s non-appearance at the SADC exercise means the SANDF will have to wait until next year before it can work with US soldiers when Exercise Shared Accord is set to take place.
Last year’s iteration of the joint US/SA exercise was described as “a sophisticated one” by US Army Africa Security Co-operation Director, Colonel John Ruffing.
“We did air field seizure, forcible entry operations, an amphibious assault and the environment was difficult with high sea states, low visibility, high winds and we were able to conduct this operation through mission command in a C-130 where you had a South African general officer and a US colonel sitting side-by-side with the South African general making decisions to conduct this operation. There were two forces –the US and South Africa, conducting this event. Not only conventional forces were involved, but there were Special Forces from both countries involved in this exercise,” he said of the exercise which took place in Eastern Cape.
A senior member of 46 SA Brigade last week told defenceWeb the exercise with the US was “challenging” and “worthwhile” for the South African defence sector.
“We must make full use of bilateral exercises such as Shared Accord to earn the value add in terms of improving military competencies,” he said but would not be drawn on South Africa’s non-participation in last month’s Southern Accord in Malawi.
One who is not happy about the way the SANDF appears to be avoiding “contact” with the US military is analyst Helmoed Heitman.
“It is time South Africa becomes realistic and gives up the delusion that no-one in Africa is working with Africom – they all are. We (South Africa) are the only exception and that does not serve us or Africa well,” he said.