The South African Navy frigates SAS Isandlwana and SAS Mendi arrived in Durban yesterday, as they rotate for the anti-piracy patrol mission off Mozambique.
SAS Mendi returned from her second anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel while SAS Isandlwana has been at its base in Simon’s Town. The arrival of both ships in Durban indicates that SAS Mendi is returning from her deployment and is to be replaced by SAS Isandlwana, Ports.co.za reports. SAS Mendi sailed for Pemba, near the Tanzanian border, in late September.
SAS Mendi’s first deployment was from January to May, when she was relieved by SAS Amatola (F145). The Amatola arrived back in Simon’s Town on September 19 after 126 days at sea.
The South African Navy, at the request of and with the aid and support of Mozambique, has maintained a forward station at the port of Pemba for much of this year. The naval presence has generally consisted of a frigate supported by reconnaissance aircraft of the South African Air Force, although it is possible that one of the South African Navy’s submarines (the SAS Charlotte Maxeke – S102) has also been on patrol in the region.
President Jacob Zuma in June and July authorised the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to combat piracy and other maritime crime off the east coast of Africa. In two letters to Parliament, Zuma said the authorisation expires on March 31 next year. Zuma’s first letter, to the Speaker of Parliament, dated June 17, authorised the deployment of 200 military personnel from April 21. “This serves to inform the National Assembly that I have extended the employment of 200 members of the SANDF for service in Mozambican waters and international waters to monitor and deter piracy activities along the southern African coast of the Indian Ocean.”
The second latter, to Jerome Maake, co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Defence, dated July 20, authorised 377 personnel from April 1. “This serves to inform the Joint Standing Committee on Defence that I have employed 377 members of the SANDF personnel [sic] to the Mozambique coast for a service in fulfilment of international obligations of the Republic of SA toward the Southern African Development Community (SADC) maritime security [sic], in order to minimise the threat of piracy and other illegal maritime activities.”
Fresh from visits to Nigeria and Benin, President Jacob Zuma yesterday departed for Maputo, Mozambique, on a state visit to that country. Invited by his counterpart Armando Guebuza, the visit is aimed at deepening already existing bilateral political, economic and social relations between the two countries, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said on Monday. Several bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding will be signed during the visit.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is accompanying Zuma on his Mozambican state visit.
Yesterday Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi, the defence force chief of joint operations, said that South Africa planned to spend R500 million next year to stave off piracy in the Mozambican Channel. Zuma was yesterday expected to discuss the issue with his Mozambican counterpart.
“In terms of costs (to prevent piracy) you can roughly say we need something like R500 million for next year. The competition for resources within SA — we are speaking of land, air and maritime facets of the border — those are the issues which we are grappling with based on the resources allocated as far as the budget is concerned because that speaks to money,” Mgwebi said.
South Africa and Mozambique share co-operative and friendly political and economic relations, both in a bilateral and multilateral context. Early last month South African defence and security officials met their Mozambican counterparts to discuss fighting piracy, transnational crime and corruption at the third session of the Republic of South Africa – Republic of Mozambique Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security Ministerial.
“The commission noted the successful deployment of and conducting of joint naval and air patrol[s] on the Mozambique waters [sic] that it has significantly reduced piracy activities. To support this effort a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the two countries which to enhance the effort to combat piracy activities,” the SA Department of Defence said in a statement.
South Africa has to date signed co-operation agreements to combat piracy with Tanzania, Kenya, the Comoros, Madagascar, Reunion, Mozambique and the Seychelles. The South African Navy recently carried out a joint anti-piracy exercise with the French and Mozambique Navies using Pemba as a base.