Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2008-12-10 Reporter: Babalo Ndenze

'SA Navy Armed and Ready'



Cape Argus



Reporter Babalo Ndenze

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The South African Navy's Maritime Reaction Squadron, officially commissioned on Tuesday, won't only assist in combating poaching and smuggling in the country's waters, it will also protect the country from Mumbai-type seaborne terror attacks.

The Maritime Reaction Squadron (MRS) was commissioned at a special parade hosted by the chief of the SA Navy, Johannes Mudimu.

The specialist unit's main aim will be to take part in various peace-keeping roles within the African continent, assist in boarding operations at sea and assist in humanitarian operations and disaster relief.

The unit's formation dates back to 2005, when Mudimu ordered the formation of a navy unit that could fulfill a specific mandate within the SA National Defence Force.

"Current prevailing maritime threats dictate that all navies must be equally ready to counter asymmetric threats.

Throughout the world, navies are confronted with maritime threats from criminal elements that commit acts of piracy, armed robbery, poaching, smuggling, human trafficking, terrorism and illegal immigration in coastal waters," Mudimu said.

Currently, many SA Navy members are involved in peace-keeping operations on the African continent, including VIP Protection, observer missions and using boats to conduct patrols in the Great Lakes region.

However, it was decided that a specialist unit to oversee all these different roles was needed, and that the unit must be from the SA Navy due to its expertise in riverine and littoral (boundary area between ocean and land) operations.

Mudimu said such criminals took advantage of countries with porous borders and weak navies that are unable to patrol their waters.

"The recent horrific attacks that apparently originated from the sea in Mumbai, India, highlight once again the vital need for good intelligence and awareness of activities at sea, extending from territorial waters to the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Most importantly, a collective approach is required by navies to counter maritime threats that include joint patrols and the exchange of information," Mudimu said.

The navy said the MRS would fulfil some of the following roles:

Mudimu said to receive early warnings and information, the navy must not neglect to encourage the general public and people at sea to be observant and to report suspicious behaviour in the country's waters.

Department of Defence spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said: "It will go a long way in ensuring that the region and the continent are stabilised.

Most of the economic activity happens in our seas. We need to make sure there's economic stability."
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With acknowledgements to Babalo Ndenze and Cape Argus.