Sisulu to talk counter-piracy tonight


Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu will this evening deliver a keynote address at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Defence and Security Council (DSC) and Senior Staff Council (SSC) meeting on a regional anti-piracy strategy.

Her office says the three day meeting, starting today at the Velmore Hotel, in Pretoria, “is expected to map out ways of developing a regional strategy to fight piracy on SADC waters.”

Sisulu in her budget vote earlier this year said the “defence and security of South Africa is inextricably linked to that of the region and the continent. Being a littoral country, South Africa needs to have a balanced maritime capability to effectively respond to arising maritime security threats affecting South Africa. This will focus on deterring piracy and other maritime illegal activities along the southern Africa Coast on the Indian Ocean, in particular the Mozambique Channel, following reports of piracy activities off the Mozambique coast and parts of Tanzania. There are therefore outcomes of a bilateral arrangement between the South African and Mozambique Governments [sic]. Hitherto, efforts are undertaken to consolidate and present a regional strategy towards eradicating the scourge of piracy in the Southern African coast of the Indian Ocean [sic].”

The meeting follows that of the chiefs of the armed forces of the SADC in South Africa early last month. Unlike today’s meeting, this conference took place in conditions of a media blackout with even the venue kept from the media. Today’s event also comes after last month’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on piracy and trans-border crime by Sisulu and her Mozambican counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyussi.
“The South African government will work with all SADC countries to fight piracy, Sisulu said at the signing. ” This is our obligation to ensure smooth movement of goods in the SADC waters.” She also committed to 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 Copper (not Hopper as previously erroneously reported). The Mendi has since been relieved by the SAS Amatola.

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.