No decision yet for SA’s anti-piracy mission


Cabinet has not yet discussed sending naval assets to support the international flight against piracy off the Horn and east coast of Africa

This was the answer to a question presented by defenceWeb to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, after her Defence Budget Vote speech to the National Assembly on Friday. 

Chief of the Defence Force, Gen Godfrey Ngwenya, said that he was not prepared to make a recommendation, as he did not believe the defence force was ready for the challenges. 

“We would have to prepare thoroughly. Now, it`s not just a question of sending one ship there, the question is how to support all those ships. That is the only reason, for know, I would say we are not ready to undertake this mission,” Ngwenya said. 

Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu, said that the mission had to come primarily from the minister and Cabinet. Part of the responsibility of the Navy was to prepare naval forces for any eventuality that takes place at sea. 

Mudimu added “during our force preparations, we prepare for all eventualities. Where the force is finally deployed is a decision to be taken by the Chief of the Defence Force together with the Minister and the Cabinet. Of course, Joint Operations will deploy that force.” 

Mudimu said that there were several naval forces operating off the east coast of Africa.

There was an American Task Group fighting terrorism, European and other forces dealing with the issue around piracy, and then there were other nations escorting food vessels. 

“So there are three types of approaches. The Navy in terms of force preparation has explained these issues to the Chief and to the Chief of Operations and of course the Government is aware that the Navy has assets, what it does and what cannot be done,” Mudimu continued. 

General Themba Matanzima, SANDF Chief of Joint Operations, added that for soldiers to be deployed a proper military appreciation was required and for soldiers to undertake some of the missions, political direction was needed. 

Matanzima said that “for the issue of Somalia, as far as I know, no channels of communication were followed. It was just a request from some organisations. If the country is to deploy its forces, there must be proper communication through Foreign Affairs and that would be entertained by the Cabinet where the Minister would be sitting with our advisors.” 

“As of now, no directive has been given for our forces to be prepared. Of course we prepare for all missions, but specifically for Somalia, no decision at political level has been taken. As soon as those decisions have been taken, they will come through the Minister to the Defence Force Chief who will deploy those assets if the country commits itself to that.” 

So what is the current situation? 

“It is a matter still currently under discussion. It has not served before Cabinet. By the time it does serve before Cabinet we will inform the media,” Sisulu said.