More light on OP Copper?


More light may be thrown Thursday on Operation Copper, the South African National Defence Force’s secretive counterpiracy patrol along the Mozambican coast. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu will then lead the South African delegation to the 3rd Session of the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security (JPCDS).

The JPCDS meeting started today with the senior officials meeting preparing for the ministerial session scheduled for Thursday. Sisulu will be joined by her Mozambique counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, who will be accompanied by Mozambique senior officials, Sisulu’s office says in a statement. “The RSA-Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission is tasked with implementation of joint operations such as border, joint navy and air patrols. The JPCDS will also consider issues of training and military health between the two countries.”

Cabinet in February mandated the South African Department of Defence to develop a maritime security strategy following an incident of piracy in Mozambican waters in December. The strategy was approved by Cabinet in June. The Joint Operations Division of the South African National Defence Force deployed a frigate, the SAS Mendi, air assets and Special Forces to Mozambique in February to conduct patrols and gather intelligence as part of Operation Copper. The Mendi was later replaced by the SAS Amatola, on the Pemba station. The Amatola returned to Simon’ Town earlier this month. It is understood the frigate SAS Isandlwana will in the near future deploy into the Mozambique channel. Reports in the shipping industry recently noted that the Heroine-class submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke had visited Durban and departed for points north. The military does not comment on operational naval deployments. It is not clear – and has not been announced – if the South African patrol has encountered any pirates or other law breakers, nor how they would have been handled, if encountered.

Sisulu a month ago told a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting on a regional anti-piracy strategy that the fight against piracy in African waters needs to move from discussion to action. She added the scourge was a modern barbarism that was causing immeasurable harm and said the present “catch and release” policy used off the Somali coast was schooling better pirates. “We meet to discuss a matter that has been a recurring feature of our agenda since 1995, she told delegates in a keynote address ahead of a three-day meeting of SADC’s Defence and Security Council (DSC) as well as its Senior Staff Council (SSC) at the Velmore Hotel in Erasmia, Pretoria.
“Hopefully this time, we will be meeting to deal with it with some resolve, so that we can remove it from our discussion agenda and place it on our operations agenda, where it should be,” Sisulu said.

It is not clear if the strategy was presented at last week’s SADC summit in Luanda, Angola.