SADC defence chiefs to talk maritime security next week


The chiefs of the armed forces of the Southern African Development Community will be meeting next week in South Africa to discuss a maritime safety strategy for the regional bloc in light of the increased probability of piracy and other crime at sea in its territorial and adjacent waters.

“The South African government will work with all SADC countries to fight piracy, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu said yesterday at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on piracy and trans-border crime. ” This is our obligation to ensure smooth movement of goods in the SADC waters. We continue to work with all SADC countries and institutions to address piracy,” Sisulu said in Pretoria.

She also committed to again meeting her counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyussi next month and a joint exercise in Mozambique and South African waters before September.

The MoU partnership and cooperation include joint training, the sharing of information and intelligence as well as joint patrols and “ongoing support in military developments”. Sisulu’s office added the MoU will see South Africa and Mozambique “working together for the promotion of maritime security in SADC’s Indian Ocean, with particular emphasis on the Mozambique Channel extending to the broader SADC waters.”

At the signing ceremony, the ministers agreed that SADC countries must work together to stop piracy, which has the potential to negatively affect SADC trade and movements of goods. “The government and people of Mozambique sent me to extend their appreciation of our cooperation and partnership. It is true what affects Mozambique also affects South Africa and we are committed to working with the SANDF in fighting piracy on SADC waters,” Nyussi said. “We also need to build stronger ties with all other countries within SADC in order to fight piracy effectively.”

Cabinet mandated the South African Department of Defence in February to develop a maritime security strategy following an incident of piracy in Mozambican waters in December. The strategy was approved by Cabinet last month. The Joint Operations Division of the South African National Defence Force deployed the SA Navy frigate SAS Mendi and air assets to Mozambique in March to conduct patrols and gather intelligence as part of Operation Hopper. The Mendi has since been relieved by the SAS Amatola.

Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu said the short- and medium-term goals of the strategy are deterrence and enforcement of state authority at sea. “This will be the deployment of maritime surface and air assets in SADC waters to extend deterrence beyond South African waters.”

Piracy was a source of serious concern as it had an effect on the country and region’s ability to trade, the Pretoria News says. “With 30% of the world’s oil supply passing round the Cape (and) through the Mozambique Channel, piracy lies at the heart of South Africa and the region’s maritime security,” Mpofu said. “There are many challenges, including the vastness of the areas affected. In 2005 the reach of pirates was 165 nautical miles off the coast, but now it is 1300 nautical miles.”

The global economic cost of piracy was an estimated US$12 billion (about R81 billion) a year, Mpofu said. Naval forces were spending US$2 billion per annum fighting piracy, she said. Ransoms cost an estimated US$148 million a year, the prosecution of pirates US$31 million, and the cost to regional economies is $1.25 billion.

South Africa’s approach will include engaging the Somali transitional federal government through the African Union, lobbying the international community to strengthen the AU Mission in Somalia, and seeking a regional SADC response to piracy, the Pretoria News added.

The meeting also noted cases of rhino poaching incidents in the Kruger National Park and called on law enforcement officers of both countries to work closer to stop rhino poaching. The ministers sent a warning to poachers that both governments have declared war on poachers.

South Africa and Mozambique will work closely in all military matters and cooperate in protecting the SADC waters and the trade that operates from there. Sisulu added that the assets of the SANDF are available to fight piracy and all cross border crimes.

Meanwhile, the Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique yesterday reported Norway’s State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry, Erik Lahnstein, said in Maputo on Monday that his nation was keen to help patrol the coast of Mozambique to help fight piracy. Speaking at a workshop on “Piracy in the Indian Ocean” organised by the Norwegian Embassy, Lahnstein said his country intended to support East African coastal states in fighting this problem. “I have visited countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles and Mauritius all of whom have problems related with piracy”, he said. “Norway wants to help these African countries in combating piracy, as we know that it may cause catastrophic effects for the economy of their countries, so we will patrol the entire Indian Ocean”.

According to Lahnstein, Norway has been supporting Mozambique in combating crime and piracy through a trust fund of 30 million Norwegian crowns (about US$5.6 million, R38.1 million) allocated to the United Nations for this purpose. AIM added Lahnstein said that, sometime between September and December, a maritime station will be set up in an east African country yet to be defined (but which could well be Mozambique) that will act as a base for sea and air patrols, scouring the Indian ocean for signs of pirate activity. Thus as from about October, Norwegian air force planes are likely to be patrolling the Mozambican coast, AIM added.
“We haven’t yet decided in which country we should place these resources, but since Mozambique is one of the countries that are on the pirates’ route, and is committed to fighting against this phenomenon, it is probably here that patrol planes will be stationed”, said the Norwegian official, cited in Tuesday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”.

The workshop was intended to examine the measures and practices that are being taken at global, regional and national levels to combat piracy and to assess the measures taken by other nations to address this problem.

AIM noted that on December 27 pirates seized the Mozambican fishing vessel “Vega 5” with a crew of 19 Mozambicans, three Indonesians and two Spaniards. The pirates took the ship to Somalia, turned it into a pirate “mother ship”, and used it in attacks against merchant shipping in the Arabian Sea. An Indian anti-pirate patrol engaged the “Vega 5” in a gun battle on March 12, overwhelming the pirates and setting free 13 of the original crew – 12 Mozambicans and one Indonesian. “The other seven Mozambican and two Indonesians are missing at sea, presumed drowned.” The two Spaniards were released last month after the pirates were paid what was described in the Spanish media as “a multi-million dollar ransom”.