The SA Navy recently hosted the South African Development Community (SADC) Joint Technical Working Group on the Review of its Maritime Security Strategy (MSS).
The review of the MSS sprouts from the 13th Ordinary session of the AU Assembly in 2009, declaring a need to, “to develop a comprehensive and coherent (Maritime) strategy”. The AU Assembly then required that SADC develop a comprehensive, coherent and inclusive MSS as the current SADC MSS only addresses the Somali piracy threat.
Further direction was issued when the Defence Sub-Committee (DSC) in Luanda, Angola in May 2018 appointed the SADC Secretariat to commence the review process and the Standing Maritime Committee (SMC) to take lead in the review process as custodian of the SADC MSS.
The Joint Technical Working Group review on the MSS was held at the SA Naval Mess in Pretoria between 23 and 25 July. The SADC structures present at the group was the SMC, Defence Intelligence Sub-Committee (DISC), Defence Legal Working Group (DLWG) and the SADC Secretariat.
36 delegates representing 11 SADC member states were present, being Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, the Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Co-chair of the meeting, Rear Admiral CM Yondo (DRC Navy) stated that the SADC waters are exposed to numerous sources of maritime insecurity due to the growth of inter-state aggression, violations of maritime spaces, trafficking in human beings, weapons, narcotics, piracy and other aspects of smuggling and that this is why the Southern African Development Community understood, like the other Regional Organizations (i.e. ECCAS, ECOWAS, etc.) the need for a strategic initiative to have cooperation and a naval presence in the African maritime field, not only for international trade, which plays a crucial role in many African economies, but also for the security of coastal and island countries, many of which have capacity weaknesses regarding surveillance and border control.
Key issues and areas of concern were addressed before Timothy Walker from the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) gave a presentation on regional and continental maritime strategies and implementation processes and then proposed strategic objectives of the SADC Integrated Maritime Strategy. According to a press release by the SA Navy, the workshop succeeded in creating a draft SADC Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (IMSS). The SA Navy went onto say that the draft IMSS has, “Sound strategic objectives that are fully aligned with the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy”.
Representatives of SADC member states were instructed to present the draft copy of the SADC IMSS to their principles for ratification. Feedback from the respective SADC member states must be submitted to the SMC Secretariat by 30 August 2019 in order for the SMC Secretariat, supported by the SADC Secretariat, to finalise the document.
The SMC Secretariat and the SADC Secretariat will meet during September 2019 to finalise the draft SADC IMSS. The SADC Secretariat will report the accomplishment of the SADC IMSS review to the DSC at its next meeting.
Following the signing of the SADC Maritime Security Strategy by heads of state in Luanda in 2011, South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania have been working closely together in anti-piracy and other maritime security operations in the Indian Ocean. This agreement bore fruit in April 2012 when the countries successfully thwarted a pirate attack in Tanzanian waters.
South Africa has taken the lead in regional maritime security, as most other nations have limited naval capabilities. The South African Navy regularly patrols the Mozambique Channel under Operation Copper, with the SAS Drakensberg currently in Mozambique.