The Chief of the South African Navy says Africa’s navies and coast guards need to work together to eliminate threats facing the Continent from the sea by ensuring maritime security in its surrounding waters.
Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu told his peers attending the 3rd Sea Power Symposium in Cape Town that they also had to speak “with one voice to ensure we act in the spirit of the African Agenda and make the dreams of our continent and its people a reality.”
“The will to empower the navies of Africa is lacking. We as Navy leaders must collectively speak with one voice and impress upon our political leaders the need to invest in adequately equipped Navies to ensure maritime security in our waters and the eradication of threats.
“Legislation to act decisively and effectively against perpetrators of crime at sea must be introduced at all levels.
“There is a need to continuous promote co-operation, collaboration, exchange of information, intelligence and co-ordination for Africa to deal with its own threats.”
Mudimu noted that representatives of landlocked states attending the conference that ended last night noted the importance of the sea to the inland countries “and it was felt they should contribute toward assisting the coastal navies on which they are reliant for their trade.”
In SA`s case, 50% of its gross domestic product was generated by trade, and 98% of this was by sea.
SA`s senior naval officer also expressed himself pleased to hear “input by the African Union representative, Mr Samuel Kame-Domguia that maritime security has been placed on the AU agenda.”
“This progress bode well for maritime security receiving the urgent attention it deserves at the highest continental level,” Mudimu added.
“The paper by Professor [John] Gibson on legal imperatives clearly brought home the reality that legislation to deal with criminality at sea such as piracy is lacking and does not provide concrete exercising of the law to ensure the justified punishment of perpetrators.
“From examples raised it is disturbing to note that through these loopholes in the law that these criminals escape conviction or receive light sentences that are not commensurate with the crime committed. This shortcoming urgently calls for a resolution to be adopted,” Mudimu said in his closing address to the symposium.
Kenyan lawyer Dr Paul Wambua raised a similar point, warning that it was pointless to arrest pirate suspects if the legal framework to convict them landside was lacking. Mudimu said Africa “must therefore get the domestic laws right to ensure effective law enforcement in these waters and subsequently adequate protection of these resources.”
Mudimu also commended Indian Navy Commodore Karambir Singh who addressed options for cost effective collaboration in the regional acquisition of patrol vessels. Mudimu noted with approval that Singh believed Africa needed “an unsophisticated and indigenous vessel to fulfil their needs to patrol their waters.”
“This is an option that should be our goal after being mandated by our political leaders and then considered for further processing.”
He had similar appreciation for US Naval Forces Africa commander Admiral Mark Fitzgerald who explained the US Navy`s Africa Partnership Station. “His appeal for countries to provide personnel to assist in this initiative should be noted. He emphasised that all Navies face common challenges and that participation in the Maritime Safety and Security Information System was a collective approach in co-operation that will assist in overcoming such challenges.”
The admiral continued that feedback on maritime progress by the SA Maritime Safety Authority highlighted that the concept of sea power includes trade, ships and most importantly the Navy. It was further mentioned that South Africa only has one registered ship and that we should have three hundred – indeed a concern given the fact that we are an island economy.”