There appears to be some confusion regarding the continuation of South Africa’s anti-piracy operation in the Mozambique Channel. The South African Navy, with the aid and support of Mozambique, has maintained a forward station at the port of Pemba since early 2011, under Operation Copper.
The naval presence generally consists of a frigate supported by a C-47TP Dakota reconnaissance aircraft of the South African Air Force. A South African Navy submarine has also been on patrol in the region. Navy frigate SAS Isandlwana replaced SAS Mendi on station in December.
In a letter to Parliament sent in July last year, President Jacob Zuma said that authorisation for the anti-piracy mission expires on March 31 this year. Several bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOU) with Mozambique were signed during Zuma’s visit to Mozambique in December.
However, on Monday senior Navy personnel stated that SAS Isandlwana is due to return to South African waters shortly as the MoU between South Africa and Mozambique covering South Africa’s assistance in anti-piracy patrols was not yet in place and consequently the Navy will cease to operate in the Mozambican Channel until such time as the MoU had been signed.
This will impact on Exercise Good Hope V, the biennial joint exercise between the South African Navy, the South African Air Force and the German Navy which is due to commence in the Mozambique Channel at the end of February. A second stage of the exercise will be conducted off the eastern and southern coasts of South Africa. Mozambican observers were due to embarked onboard the SAS Isandlwana for the first stage of the exercise.
It now appears that SAS Isandlwana will return to South Africa shortly and Exercise Good Hope V will commence off Durban and then proceed south to Simon’s Town. According to one naval officer, Mozambique is not happy about the fact that South Africa had the “audacity” to invite the German Navy to participate in a joint exercise off Mozambique.
Capt (SAN) Z.G. Sithole, Senior Staff Officer for communication at the Joint Operations division of the South African Defence Force (SANDF), confirmed to defenceWeb this morning that the SANDF had a signed MoU with Mozambique on anti-piracy patrols.
“Operation Copper has not ceased and SAS Isandlwana is still in the area of responsibility where she patrols. SAS Isandlwana is continuing with her responsibilities which include patrolling the SA waters and the Mozambican channel,” Sithole said.
The SA Navy provides the equipment and resources, but the actual employment of those resources is under the command of the Joint Operations Division. More clarity could not immediately be obtained.
By Dean Wingrin