Keynote address by L N Sisulu, MP, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans at the occasion of the Indian Ccean Naval Symposium held in Cape Town on Wednesday 11 April 2012

Programme Director

Vice-Admiral Mudimu of the South African Navy and Chairperson of the 3rd Indian Ocean Naval Symposium

Vice-Admirals and leaders of delegations


Flag Officers


High Commissioner for India

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Honoured Guests and delegates

Members of the media

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to the beautiful City of Cape Town. A city so rich in the relics of the worst and the best of our history. A city that opened us up to colonial conquest and a city that harboured our icon Nelson Mandela for the better part of his life. A city that boasts one of the seven natural wonders of the world. A city where the two oceans meet. A city where our pain and triumphs have merged.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our country. We are honoured that we, on behalf of the continent were chosen to host the third Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, and the first of its kind to be convened on African soil. The choice of ourselves is fortuitous because the matter that you have convened to discuss, has become a top security concern of the Continent. The crimes in the Indian Ocean have become quite simply unacceptable.

On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, we commit ourselves to ensuring that the outcome of this symposium becomes a top agenda item of our security and that of the region. We commit ourselves to ensuring that we can give you all the political support that you require in dealing with this clear and present and menacing scourge, so that you can direct yourselves to the reduction of the maritime security threats emergent in your respective environments.

It is indeed a particular privilege to address a gathering such as this one, where, irrespective of our possibly divergent perspectives, we are collectively gripped by our obligation of furthering our human security agenda and in particular the matter that is at hand.

It is gives me and my government a great deal of comfort as the host of the symposium that will deal with our concern around a range of illegal and criminal activities, burdening our shores, thereby endangering the age-old custom of innocent passage, and, by association, the international principle of freedom of the seas.

We of the African Continent, are particularly reliant on the sea and thereby extremely vulnerable. In fact, our fortunes belong to an economy that was created around the oceans. Our trade and our livelihoods are dependent on an infrastructure that was laid for colonial purposes and we are unfortunately still bound to this infrastructure. Approximately 90% of trade destined for Africa is transported by sea. This percentage is higher within intra-African trade. It is within this context that you will understand how tangible our vulnerability is. Then you will also appreciate the extent of our abhorrence about crime perpetrated on the oceans around us.

Consider also this fact – that the ravages of piracy in 2006 netted a worldwide figure for hostages taken at sea at 186. Compare this to the figure of 1 016 hostages taken in the Indian Ocean around Africa in 2010. Then you understand that we are dealing with an extremely grave challenge. It is also clear to us that we are now, in the SADC seas, expecting increased acts of piracy. On a recent visit to Tanzania to deal with the matter of piracy, the Minister of Defence indicated to us the reality of this scourge and it has become clear to us that the SADC oceans have become an alternative for piracy. He indicated that Tanzania experienced 57 attacks by pirates in its territorial waters in the past twelve months, an unprecedented number, but one that is indicative of the relocation of piracy to the SADC ocean.

The inherent obligation of the maritime community to participate vigorously in ensuring an effective military maritime security response, in collaboration with other state and non-state actors, has become an increasingly pressing priority.

The impact of such nefarious activities as maritime crime on all of the social, economic and political levels, is significant, particularly given the relative degree of hunger and underdevelopment in many of the regions of the continent.

The effects of such crime is not limited to the perpetration of illegal activities but extends to the destabilisation of complex social and community power relations of our societies. This should not ever be underestimated. In fact, we believe it is precisely the impact of these crimes that has spawned the worst of our political instabilities.

Accordingly, it must be acknowledged at the outset that an effective response to emergent maritime threats will only be found in a systemic, integrated and tailor-driven approach which is relevant to the unique configuration of the particular social economic landscape.

Plainly stated, our Maritime Security Agenda needs to be furthered within the context of the broader socio economic revitalisation of our regions and Continents, with due appreciation and regard for the particular complexities and socio-economic factors at play in each case.

A singular military maritime response will achieve little on its own. This is particularly important when considering that most matters of maritime crime originate on land. A solution which only addresses itself to the maritime dimension, without taking cognisance of the broader land-based complexities, will at best be limited in its success, and fundamentally flawed.

This is given clear recognition in the Charter of Business which guides our deliberations as an Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.

Here we have from you been given firm expression to our strategic intent to attain mutually beneficial outcomes through collective co-operation in determining remedies to regional maritime security.

Your objectives and scope are here defined in terms of such critical domains as:
· The promotion of a shared understanding of the maritime security issues facing all the littoral states of the Indian Ocean.
· The formulation of strategies to enhance regional maritime security.
· The strengthening of our capability in order to do so.
· Establishing multinational maritime co-operative strategies to mitigate our maritime security concerns,
· And addressing the matter of interoperability specifically.

As you proceed with your deliberations during the course of the forthcoming days, it is this intent, framed within the principles of openness, inclusivity, consultation and consensus, which shall constitute our landscape.

At this juncture, allow me to highlight a few further principles which might frame your deliberations.

Firstly, it must be acknowledged that maritime security forms a critical element of collective human security, and is furthermore fundamentally linked to the development and economic prosperity of our respective regions.

Secondly, an effective military maritime security response must be articulated collectively, through dialogue and participation and sound integration.

It is for this reason, that the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium holds the most remarkable potential, given its founding initiation as a voluntary, cordial structure able to provide an open and inclusive forum for discussion.

It is imperative that its members, in partnership with the full spectrum of the global maritime community, participate vigorously in addressing the challenges to maritime safety and security in and around the Indian Ocean region.

Furthermore, in keeping with the principle of ensuring a systematic and integrated approach, it is imperative that forums such as this one extend the landscape of analysis beyond the Indian Ocean Region, to address the pressing threats emergent within the broader global maritime community.

This will require integration of the highest order, both horizontally between various role-players, and vertically, between nations and communities, to ensure the inclusion, of, for example, all mandated Government Agencies and non-State Actors able to constructively participate in the forging of solutions. Given the large number of role-players in the maritime space, multi-agency co-operation in any forging of solutions to address maritime security will be imperative.

In this regard, it is pertinent to note that the maritime security agenda has seized the attention of actors and agencies beyond only the maritime community, and that these entities are making a remarkable contribution to the combating of insecurity in the maritime space.

By way of illustration, the international policing agency, INTERPOL, instituted a Maritime Piracy Task Force in 2010, addressing the matter of maritime crime in particular. Using an extensive global piracy database, this entity has directed itself to such broad activities as regional capacity building and operational support, international and regional co-operation and information sharing, in support of ensuring maritime safety and security.

Thirdly, any articulation of Regional Security Strategies, will need to be addressed holistically, with solutions addressing the full spectrum, including legislation and policy frameworks, matters of capacitation and more operational plans.

Finally, as we have noted at the outset, the military response will achieve little on its own. Essentially, the broader focus needs to direct itself to addressing not only symptoms such as maritime crime, but also to address itself to the root causes, such as on-going instability, lack of good governance, lack of viability of the local economy and poverty and continued under development of communities whose livelihood has been decimated by maritime resource looting and in some cases the environmental degradation of the ocean.

Having explored the premises which underpin our position, allow me to reflect briefly on the particular applicability thereof within our own Continental perspective.

First, media and other attention have largely addressed the matter of piracy. However, it must be acknowledged that the Maritime Security agenda is somewhat broader, and that a number of growth and environmental challenges also require a response.

Pertinent examples include such aspects as the threats being posed to our renewable and non-renewable resources, climate change, natural disasters, our constrained road, air rail, and sea networks, and limited port infrastructure, to name but a few.

Each of these individually, and certainly all of them collectively, pose a significant challenge to regional safety and, by association, to the collective human security and well-being of its people.

This recognition of the broader impact of maritime security threats on sustainable development of the Continent has been given recognition in our defined Government intent, with an outcome being framed to address the specific matter of the enhancement of the African Agenda and sustainable Continental development.

The outcome envisages the creation of a better South Africa and contributing to a better and safer Africa in a better world, having as its defined output a deepened contribution to regional and continental security and stability and sustainable development.

Importantly, the outcome and its association with matters of security, is situated within a strategic landscape which reflects a specific developmental agenda, envisioning a State where our intent is directed at fundamental grass-roots realities such as the alleviation of absolute and relative poverty, the correction of glaring inequalities of social conditions and the removal of the degradation associated with inequality and the daily struggle for access to basic resources and amenities.

This does not simply define a school of ideology or an economic model; rather, it is based on a most fundamental Vision of improving the prosperity and expanding the life and liberty of citizens in a sustainable manner.

A similar intent is being articulated within the organs and subsidiary structures of the African Union, with this entity having directed itself to the formulation of a “2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy”. This Strategy constitutes an overarching multi-layered African-driven long-term Vision to address both maritime challenges and opportunities.

I reflect on this by way of illustration, serving to highlight both the strategic recognition being accorded to the matters which you shall be discussing in the forthcoming period, as well as to amplify the importance of a systemic, multi-lateral and relevant approach to deriving potential solutions.

One of these matters is that the world is to taking to the option of onboard security. This has been raised with us by a number of European countries. We are grappling with this development. We would like to be advised by yourselves on the ethics and viability of this.

Attendant to that we would want a binding commitment on all affected states to follow the money. Where does the huge sums of money, paid out to ransoms actually go.

In your hands is the protection of a way of life. In your hands is a huge responsibility. Do me the honour of emerging from this symposium with historic responses. I eagerly await the result.

I wish you well in your deliberations across the next three days, and look forward to the outcome of these.

Thank you again for this honour.