The deployment of SA Air Force (SAAF) assets to assist with humanitarian relief in flood-ravaged Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries has been noted and welcomed by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans.
Oryx medium transport and A109 light utility helicopters as well as a CASA C-212 and a Pilatus PC-12 are currently in Malawi and Mozambique. The helicopters deliver food and other aid, including much-needed medical supplies, while also plucking stranded people from precarious positions and ensuring safe arrival at hastily erected transit camps.
The single-engined Pilatus PC-12 from 41 Squadron is employed on reconnaissance taskings.
All told six SAAF aircraft – four rotary-winged and two fixed wing – are currently assisting with the provision of humanitarian relief.
According to a portfolio committee statement: “Idai currently ranks as the third deadliest tropical cyclone on record”.
“The willingness and speedy response of the SANDF [South African National Defence Force] speaks of a professional and willing defence force that can be counted on in times of disaster, whether it be local or across our borders. We extend our gratitude to our soldiers who risked their lives in difficult circumstances for extended periods in the humanitarian aid they extended, especially to stranded Mozambicans.
“Our air force is also assisting to restore power supply from the Cahora Bassa hydro-electric generation station to South Africa to relieve pressure on the South African power grid. The committees also notes and appreciates the speedy approval from the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) to employ our soldiers to Mozambique and Malawi, in his letters to Parliament dated 15 March 2019.”
Despite budget challenges, the committees called on the SANDF to further enhance efforts to assist South Africa’s neighbours.
“We wish the South African men and women in uniform all of the best with these praiseworthy and valiant endeavours,” the committee said.
Cyclone Idai hit parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi two weeks ago, leaving nations reeling. Hundreds of citizens were killed and thousands displaced during the disaster that has seen the international community pledge support in recovery efforts.
At least a dozen nations have contributed air assets in response to Cyclone Idai, including Angola (an Mi-8 helicopter, and an Il-76 supplied aid and departed); Denmark (a C-130 Hercules), Italy (a C-130 Hercules), Morocco (three C-130s supplied aid and departed), Portugal (two C-130s delivered aid while ten large boats have been deployed), and Tanzania (an An-12 delivered aid). A400Ms from Turkey, the United Kingdom and Spain have all been sent to Mozambique to assist with relief efforts. France delivered aid via a C-160 Transall aircraft and has sent the amphibious assault helicopter carrier Tonerre to Mozambique with several helicopters and amphibious craft. India has three naval vessels, eight large boats, three medical teams and a Chetak helicopter deployed in Mozambique.