South Africa Navy’s strike craft lands in Mozambique

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has shown its first public and maritime presence in Pemba in northern Mozambique this weekend, with the arrival of the navy’s SAS Makhanda strike craft. 

With this and recent successes by the Rwanda Defence Force in the Cabo Delgado Province the battle plan to rid the area of a brutal insurgency has become clear.

The SAS Makhanda will form part of the small maritime contingent of the Southern African Development Community’s intervention brigade known as the SADC Mission in Mozambique or SAMIM. According to maritime experts, the strike craft probably has a maritime reaction group on board to act against any suspect vessels that might be involved in smuggling or the reinforcement of the insurgents in the area.

The first contingent of armoured vehicles from 43 SA Brigade, based north of Pretoria, was also visible as it moved through the border post of Ressano Garcia at Komatipoort at first light on Saturday. Trucks moving Casspir armoured personnel carriers, support vehicles and ambulances were posted on social media.

The convoy contained the first of South Africa’s mechanised infantry battalion vehicles and was escorted by the Mozambican military police on its journey of some 2 500km to Pemba. Two of the South African Air Force’s Hercules C130 cargo aircraft have been flying regular flights between Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria and Pemba in the past two weeks transporting soldiers, equipment, ammunition and a contingent of Special Forces.

An Air Force Cessna Caravan light aircraft arrived in Pemba last week and its crew has set up base at Pemba’s international airport. The Caravan will presumably be used for aerial reconnaissance of both the coastline and inland when the SAMIM force starts its operations to oust the insurgents from Cabo Delgado.

An advance team from the SANDF has been in the area for more than a week to set up headquarters for the bigger force. Major General Xolani Mankayi, formerly the commander of the 43 SA Brigade, has been appointed the intervention brigade’s force commander, with a Botswana general acting as his second-in-command.

The SANDF has seemingly decided to follow Zimbabwe’s example not to announce details of its troop contribution to the bigger SAMIM force.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said on Twitter that the would quietly deploy its soldiers to Mozambique.

Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, the SANDF spokesperson, last week confirmed that the defence force has started mobilising its contribution to the SADC Mission in Mozambique but did not elaborate as to the deployment dates or units of South Africa’s contribution.

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week notified parliament that 1 495 SANDF soldiers would form part of the intervention brigade at a cost of R984-million for three months. Military experts have concurred that the duration will probably be extended. The SADC earlier planned for the SAMIM force to consist of about 3 000 soldiers. 

On 26 July, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi saw his first contingent of 296 soldiers off at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport this week. A long convoy of armoured assault vehicles and other support trucks were also seen as it crossed the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique at Gondola.

Armoured assault vehicles of the Botswana Defence Force on low bed transport trucks moving through Gondola on Saturday.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the commander-in-chief of the Botswana Defence Force, salutes his contingent of soldiers before they set off for Mozambique last week.

The Rwanda Defence Force has killed some 30 insurgents in several skirmishes with joint operations by the Rwandans and the Mozambican armed forces.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi recently said he had asked Rwanda for support because of its experience in counter-insurgency operations. According to military experts, it has become clear that the Rwanda Defence Force will act as a more aggressive strike force in removing the insurgents. Key areas and roads previously controlled by the insurgents have been reopened after the Rwandans’ operations.

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