No Call for SA Navy to Chase Pirates off Horn of Africa
There has been no formal request to involve the South African Navy in patrols off the Horn of Africa to help bring the rampant piracy there under control, and stability back to the one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, the defence ministry says.
After 18 years of civil war in Somalia, pirates have taken advantage of the lawlessness to launch attacks on foreign shipping from the country’s coast.
About 100 ships have been attacked so far this year.
Speaking at a media conference in Pretoria yesterday, Sam Mkhwanazi, spokesman for Defence Minister Charles Nqakula, said such a request would be directed to the Presidency and the foreign affairs department.
After engaging the defence ministry, a political decision would be taken giving directives to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to explore the logistical and budgetary implications of deploying the navy in the area.
Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein told Associated Press in Nairobi, Kenya, that his country had been torn apart by the legacy of the long civil war and “cannot stop piracy alone”.
Navy chief V-Adm Refiloe Mudimo said that, like all divisions of the SANDF , the navy was obligated to honour South Africa’s international commitments and responsibilities.
But nothing was on the table yet with regard to Somalia, Mudimo said.
While no pirates were venturing into s outhern African waters, Mudimo said there were already initiatives by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to strengthen the capacity of the region to patrol its waters and render them safe for trade.
About 95% of SA’s imports and exports are transported by sea, representing 65% of the country’s gross domestic product. At least 75% of SA’s fuel needs come by sea from the Middle East, while 30% of oil from Europe, South America and the Middle East goes to various destinations past the Cape of Good Hope.
Mudimo said pirates were not messing with the Cape because of SA’s submarines, frigates and patrol vessels *1.
The SADC initiative was also looking at improving the region’s capacity to curb drug smuggling and related international crimes such as human trafficking.
“Our centres of excellence and facilities are forever hosting students, and trainees of our neighbours such as Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. M y senior personnel are travelling to these countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, to share our expertise,” Mudimo said. “Levels of co-operation, and the sharing of intelligence and information within the region and the continent are crucial if we are to keep our waters safe for intercontinental trade and our citizens.”
The chief director of maritime strategy, R-Adm Bernhard Teuteberg, said the navy was establishing a multiskilled Maritime Reaction Squadron that would have marines, trained by the army and navy and with diving skills to face a variety of challenges, both in inland waters and on the sea.
The squadron would also have an equally highly trained reserve team. Part of the training would be along Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi.
With acknowledgements to Hopewell Radebe and Business Day.