SOUTH African soldiers have begun arriving in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado as part of a regional standby force being deployed to help Mozambique defeat violent Islamic State-affiliated extremists.
Officials from the South African government and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and local security analysts confirmed that leading elements of the SADC standby force – including its South African commander – were already in Mozambique.
Military sources said small contingents of special forces from the standby force, including South Africans, had been flown into Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado, on Monday.
Pictures have been circulating of a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) C-130 Hercules transport aircraft unloading troops and equipment, apparently at Pemba airport.
This week the DA called on Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to delay the deployment of SANDF troops to Mozambique until there was “absolute certainty that internal security threats have been contained”.
DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais said on Saturday the deployment of 25,000 SANDF troops to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to ensure stability and security after last week’s looting and arson “will stretch our national defence capabilities to the limit”.
“Priority should be placed on stabilising the security situation in the country and restoring law and order. South Africa’s ability to meet its international military assistance obligations is only possible if our own internal security is stable and secure,” Marais said.
However, it appears the defence minister has decided to go ahead with the Mozambique deployment anyway as several security sources in Mozambique as well as SADC and South African officials have confirmed the arrival of advance elements.
But Mapisa-Nqakula had told members of Parliament’s defence portfolio committee on Sunday that an advance party of the SADC force would determine if the full proposed force was needed.
Though the size of the proposed standby intervention force has not been officially revealed, a provisional report drafted by military experts in April proposed a force of almost 3,000 troops, comprising three infantry battalions and two special forces squads, with support elements and attack helicopters as well as patrol ships and aircraft and a submarine. – DM