The South African Navy’s frigate SAS Spioenkop (F147) is currently steaming home after an Operation Vikela deployment off Mozambique and once back in South Africa will be out of action for prolonged maintenance.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division communication officer Captain Anelisiwe Tamela notes the Valour Class frigate will undergo “extensive maintenance” once ported in Simon’s Town, adding value to a remark made by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. Responding to Minister Thandi Modise’s defence budget vote address earlier this week, he said Spioenkop was “limping along the Mozambican coast due to non-maintenance and unavailability of spares” in yet another sign of the declining defence budget biting the SANDF.
Spioenkop set sail for Mozambique on 2 March, and arrived on station in the Mozambique Channel to replace two SA Navy (SAN) offshore patrol vessels – SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and SAS Makhanda (P1569) – in line with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) contribution to SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique).
Spioenkop was tasked with execution of barrier patrols along the coast of the Mozambique Channel between Pemba and Tanzania, working with the Tanzanian Navy ship (TNS) Fatundu and Forças Armadas de Defesa Mozambique (FADM) patrol boats.
Ahead of Spioenkop’s return to South Africa, last week SAMIM force commander Major General Xolani Mankayi paid tribute to the ship’s crew and the Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) elements for a job well done in keeping the sea lane free of terrorist activity.
He noted that one of the notable successes of SAS Spioenkop took place in Matemo Island, where the Maritime Reaction Squadron formed part of an operation with SAMIM Security Forces and successfully launched them onto Matemo Island in pursuit of Al-Sunna Wa Jama’ah (ASWJ) terrorists.
“It goes without saying that SAS Spioenkop and its crew have really proved themselves as a world class battleship,” Mankayi told sailors. “You’ve been given an enormous task of ensuring the Mozambican channel is free from terrorist activities and denying them freedom of action along the coast.”
He said a gap was created by the departure of the two South African offshore patrol vessels, which created some breathing space for ASWJ to conduct fishing and supply activities along the coast.
“I know that the operation was full of challenges and a lot of lessons have been learnt through this deployment and many of you will take home some much needed experience to be applied in future operations,” Mankayi said. “To the crew, you have represented SADC and your country very well and it does not go unnoticed.”
“The successful operation is not one of where we count dead bodies in shallow graves but where the given mandate is achieved, with minimal force and strategic planning that achieves the outcome that the people of Mozambique regain their dignity of enjoying freedom of economic activities in their birth land and more especially in the affected areas of Cabo Delgado.
“We all play an important role from the land, the air, the navy and the medical forces within operational areas. As I have previously mentioned, that we are transitioning to Scenario Five, this will bring its own challenges and dynamics but rest assured that Samim together with the host nation, we are ready to face the enemy head on and not be deterred despite given challenges that SAMIM faces.”
Challenges Mankayi mentioned include with resupply at the port of Nacala that caused delays (and which he pledged will be resolved in the future). The SAS Spioenkop is in need of maintenance and “will be out of action for some time”.
Mankayi called on SAMIM contributing countries to provide maritime assets as SAMIM transitions into a Scenario Five robust peacekeeping mandate, which will require small boats to patrol the coastline and ensure terrorist activities are denied.