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‘Insensitive’ SANDF to plough ahead with joint maritime exercise with Russia and China

‘Insensitive’ SANDF to plough ahead with joint maritime exercise with Russia and China
Visitors stand aboard the Zyb 560 fast-attack guided missile Baltic Fleet warship during Russian Navy Day at the Vistula lagoon in Baltiysk on 31 July 2016. (Photo: Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It has not escaped international or domestic attention that Exercise Mosi 2 will be taking place while the world observes the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) announced on Thursday that it would go ahead with a joint maritime exercise with Russia and China next month, despite growing opposition inside and outside South Africa.

The SANDF said it would host the People’s Liberation Army Navy and Russian Federal Navy for Exercise Mosi 2 in Durban and Richards Bay from 17 to 27 February, “as a means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between SA, Russia and China”. It noted that Russia would be the lead nation in the exercise.

It has not escaped international or domestic attention that Exercise Mosi 2 will be taking place while the world observes the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. 

This underscores the criticism that it is at least insensitive for South Africa to be conducting military drills with Russia at a time when it is massively bombarding its much smaller neighbour, apparently aimed at undermining Ukraine’s will to fight by destroying civilian infrastructure such as its electricity grid during winter.

Military analysts believe the main Russian vessel that will take part in Exercise Mosi 2 is the guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov, accompanied by its oiler, Kama. They say that although the Admiral Gorschkov is not known to have participated in attacks on Ukraine, similar ships in the Black Sea have fired fusillades of cruise missiles that have destroyed power stations and other infrastructure and killed hundreds of civilians.

“Is that the sort of military operation South Africa hopes to learn from?” one Western military analyst asked.

The Royal Navy recently shadowed the Admiral Gorshkov as it sailed south through the North Sea. Military analysts believe it is armed with Zircon hypersonic guided missiles, supposedly capable of evading even the most advanced Nato defences, and so Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending it abroad at this time to project power, all the way from the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.

The Smoke that Blunders — Russia, China and SA navy exercise is immoral, stupid and impractical

Compared with that — and the three ships China is expected to send — the South African Navy’s contribution to Exercise Mosi 2 seems likely to be rather notional. 

Military experts say it originally intended to contribute a frigate and a submarine but will probably be unable to do so.

“Early indications are that the South African Navy, crippled by severe cuts to its maintenance and refit budget in recent years, may only be able to provide two ships: the SAS King Sekhukhune I, an IPV [inshore patrol vessel], and the SAS Protea, a survey ship,” Darren Olivier, director at the African Defence Review, told Daily Maverick

A Russian Navy sailor passes missile tubes aboard the Parchim class corvette Kalmykia MPK 229 Baltic Fleet warship on Russian Navy Day at the Vistula lagoon in Baltiysk on 31 July 2016. (Photo: Andrey Rudakov / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“Neither is a warship in a meaningful sense, unlike the Russian and Chinese ships most likely to be taking part. The IPV is armed only with 20mm Super Sea Rogue guns for close-in protection, and the Protea similarly has only 12.7mm and 20mm guns.

“The SAS King Sekhukhune I is not even fully operational yet, as it’s still in its operational test and evaluation phase, and it’s arguable that taking part in exercises before that’s completed is a distraction.

“Given what the SA Navy is able to bring into this exercise, it’s a fair question to ask whether it’s worth holding it now and whether the benefit outweighs the cost and controversy.”

DA defence spokesperson Kobus Marais agrees, dismissing the war games as “nothing more than an expensive publicity stunt”.

“Currently, most if not all of the South African Navy vessels are not serviceable and our maritime patrols and reconnaissance obligations are not fulfilled as required by our Constitution,” he said. 


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“We hardly have enough resources to comply with the basic SA naval requirements and obligations to protect the nation’s integrity and secure the safety of our people. To waste money on this fruitless exercise is irrational, irresponsible and unacceptable. There can be little if any real benefit for the SANDF, given the enormous resource constraints it has to deal with on a daily basis.

“Our first priorities must be to do the essential maintenance and upgrades to our naval vessels and once we can afford and benefit significantly from an international exercise, it must then be considered. This will be bad value for our taxpayers’ money.”

Read in Daily Maverick: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads for Pretoria on his Africa ‘charm’ offensive

Marais added that it was “an awkward time” to be holding an exercise with Russia while it was devastating civilian targets in Ukraine. 

“While our government has claimed to be neutral, this is just another of many incidents where the ANC has clearly exposed their favouritism towards Russia.

“As the clear dominant partner in Exercise Mosi 2, it is obvious that the value for Russia is to showcase its geopolitical influence in southern Africa as part of their global war games against Nato and the USA.”

Marais vowed that the DA would continue to strongly oppose “this silly exercise”.

The SANDF noted that this would be the second such exercise, as the first Exercise Mosi had taken place among the same three nations in November 2019 off Cape Town. 

Exercise coordinators had concluded all necessary coordination and preparation arrangements for the exercise during virtual planning conferences held at the start of December last year. 

More than 350 SANDF personnel from various arms services and divisions would participate in Exercise Mosi 2 “with the aim of sharing operational skills and knowledge”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Karl Nepgen says:

    How thick skinned can these governing stooges be? Apart from the obvious global political insensitivity, it is financially stupid waste, and a gross national embarassment to the SA Navy. How ignominious to be unable to contribute nothing more than a 40 year old survey vessel and an unfinished IPV.

  • Keith Scott says:

    Russia owns the ANC. There is no need for any other analyses on this issue.

  • hfowle says:

    What in the name of all that is holy has this country become.
    I cannot express how much disgust I feel for the ruling party.
    This, when I thought that the ANC could not sink any lower.
    A stain on our reputation.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    A minnow swimming with 2 sharks.. What could go wrong? Both China and Russia are in expansionist mode. Minnow beware. Lavrov has all the charm of a grumpy Buffalo. Offensive is the right word for both his visit to Pretoria and the naval nonsense.

  • Peter Brink says:

    It boggles the mind of an America why RSA is participating in a joint naval exercise with Russia while that nation continues its invasion of the peaceable Ukraine. Why would the ANC choose Russia with its totalitarian government and dismal standard of living as a partner and model?

  • John Gosling says:

    I have depleted my disgust and outrage for the ANC. Cuddling up to China and Russia? Both are predators of note. Both are scorpions. Cuddle with scorpions even if they assure you they won’t sting – and guess what?

  • Petrus Kleinhans says:

    The ANC is a useless puppet of Russia and China. The idea of some that the economic future of SA is better in the Russia, and China camp is bizarre. The people must reject the failed, corrupt, puppet ANC regime once and for all.

  • J C says:

    What an embarrassment this “Ruling” party is – they obviously have no shame or any other meaningful cerebral quality’s …

    ANC= Putin’s lapdog

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Considering the Russian and especially the Chinese investments in South Africa, they already own a fair piece of the country. Seeing the kind of defense that SA will be showing at the “War Game” they can safely come to get the rest whenever it suits them.

  • Peter Spence says:

    Allowing this military activity to take place in our waters while Russia wages a brutal war on its Ukrainian neighbour is absolutely shocking and insensitive. Surely the majority of our people, if asked, would condem such action by the SANDF as an insult to our peaceful and loving values towards our fellow man.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    Expect state visits from these two countries and we will all have to wave Russian and Chinese flags as they now finishing raping the last remaining semblance of what could have been the economic hub and Africa.
    The African continent is a disgrace to humanity! as for the ANC, its has all been said hereunder.

  • Quinton van Rooyen says:

    Fear not. In its current form, the South African Navy is such a liability that it can only benefit us if we hand it over to an opposing force. We can weaponise their incompetence.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      One has to wonder what the Russians have on CR and the ANC hierarchy that has made our government so submissive! If only sofas and walls had ears and could talk!

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