Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu joined sailors aboard SAS Mendi last night to watch the South African national soccer team take-on Uruguay in the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
When the South African Navy hosted a Maritime Capability Demonstration in April to demonstrate its capability and readiness for the World Cup, Sisulu was told that the larger ships would have TV on board for the crew to watch the various matches. Hearing this, Sisulu promised the Navy that she would watch the national soccer team, Bafana-Bafana, from aboard one of the ships.
The Minister kept her word last night when she watched the fist-round match between South Africa and Uruguay aboard the frigate SAS Mendi. Sisulu was joined by Deputy Minister Thabang Makwetla, Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele and Secretary for Defence Mpumi Mpofu.
SAS Mendi had just returned to the Simon’s Town naval base after spending a few days at sea off the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town as part of Operation Kgwele, the SANDF’s World Cup support plan. The frigate, together with SAS Amatola and SAS Spioenkop, are deployed to support Special Forces and the Maritime Reaction Squadron, as well as to provide radar coverage for the air force. The frigate was also involved in identifying objects of interest in the air and at sea.
Sisulu said that being aboard the Mendi was a “unique opportunity” as this was her only chance to watch a soccer match with those tasked to protect the event.
In her Department Of Defence Budget Vote address to Parliament in early May, Sisulu made an offer to the coach of Bafana Bafana to consider spending some time at the Navy training unit at Saldanha before the start of the Soccer World Cup. Despite an impressive first game against Mexico, the guests and crew of SAS Mendi were disappointed when the South African team lost 0-3 to Uruguay.
In response, Sisulu said that she had ‘offered the team to go to Saldanha to give them a fighting spirit” and additional edge. Despite the loss, Sisulu and guests enjoyed watching the game with the crew of the SAS Mendi.
Under Operation Kgwele, two frigates are position off Cape Town and Durban, while the third will be patrolling at sea. Two submarines will also be deployed on patrol for the entire period, together with SAS Protea (Underwater Security HQ), SAS Umkomaas and SAS Umzimkulu (support platforms) and SAS Drakensberg, which will provide combat support duties as required.