SANDF stays mum on possible assistance to Mozambique

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will only discuss behind closed doors the possibility of the deployment of its special forces to Mozambique to help quell terrorist activities.

The Department of Defence and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on Wednesday about its fourth-quarter performance in the 2019-20 financial year.

Secretary of Defence Sam Gulube said the SANDF participated in "Operation Copper" in support of the Mozambican Defence Force. The SAS Drakensberg conducted a long-range counter-piracy patrol along the northern coast of Mozambique, from Pemba towards the Tanzanian border from 11 February to 27 March.

After the presentation, DA MP Kobus Marais asked them to elaborate on this operation.

Marais wanted to know whether South Africa's special forces were training in the north of Durban for possible deployment in Mozambique, given that Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor recently said South Africa was in discussions with Mozambique about helping in the conflict with Isis.

Gulube said special forces' operations are "classified".

He said perhaps the committee could arrange that it is "discussed under closed doors".

When Mapisa-Nqakula answered the committee's questions, she confirmed with the committee chairperson that the meeting was open to the public, and then said she will not speak about Mozambique.

"There are challenges with Mozambique. Yes, there are," she said. "Whether Mozambique asked for help is another matter."

Pandor noted in an interview with the SABC on 22 May that SA and Mozambique were in discussions regarding the security situation in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province.

Reuters reported that it was unclear from her comments whether this could include sending troops.

It was reported in December last year that ongoing attacks by a terrorist organisation, with possible links to Isis, had left behind a trail of destruction in Cabo Delgado.

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