President Jacob Zuma has authorised the South African National Defence Force to combat piracy and other maritime crime off the east coast of Africa. In two letters to Parliament, Zuma said the authorisation expired 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 fulfillment 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.”
It is not known why Zuma sent two letters to two different parliamentary officials regarding the same deployment but citing two sets of figures and two starting dates.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu on Tuesday said a SADC heads of state summit in Luanda, Angola, last month had adopted an anti-piracy strategy to fight a growing scourge along both the east and west coasts of the continent. She added the policy was now being implemented.
“We are attending to the matter”, she told a media conference. A further event is to be scheduled to announce the policy, she added. Cabinet in February mandated the South African Department of Defence to develop a maritime security strategy following an incident of piracy in Mozambican waters in December. The strategy was approved by Cabinet in June. The Joint Operations Division of the South African National Defence Force deployed a frigate, the SAS Mendi, air assets and Special Forces to Mozambique in February to conduct patrols and gather intelligence as part of Operation Copper. The Mendi was later replaced by the SAS Amatola on the Pemba station. The Amatola returned to Simon’ Town early in August. It is understood the frigate SAS Isandlwana will in the near future deploy into the Mozambique channel. Reports in the shipping industry recently noted that the Heroine-class submarine SAS Charlotte Maxeke had visited Durban and departed for points north. The military does not comment on operational naval deployments. It is not clear – and has not been announced – if the South African patrol has encountered any pirates or other law breakers, nor how they would have been handled, if encountered.
Sisulu a month ago told a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting on a regional anti-piracy strategy that the fight against piracy in African waters needs to move from discussion to action. She added the scourge was a modern barbarism that was causing immeasurable harm and said the present “catch and release” policy used off the Somali coast was schooling better pirates. “We meet to discuss a matter that has been a recurring feature of our agenda since 1995, she told delegates in a keynote address ahead of a three-day meeting of SADC’s Defence and Security Council (DSC) as well as its Senior Staff Council (SSC) at the Velmore Hotel in Erasmia, Pretoria.
“Hopefully this time, we will be meeting to deal with it with some resolve, so that we can remove it from our discussion agenda and place it on our operations agenda, where it should be,” Sisulu said.