23 February 2011
The South African government is concerned about the escalating piracy off the coast of Somalia, with officials vowing to do everything possible to protect south-east African waters and the region’s trade interests.
Two South Africans became victims of pirates when they were abducted from a yacht in the Indian Ocean in November last year. The pirates have since demanded a ransom of US$10-million.
A Mozambican vessel was also hijacked in December in what Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu described as a threat to regional seas and security.
Briefing journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday, the minister said her department had beefed up its sea and air border management, with additional deployments being made.
The SS Mendi has resumed patrols along the Mozambican channel to ensure security on southern Africa waters.
Millions paid in ransoms
Somali piracy has become big business, with millions in ransoms paid last year and the average payment rising from £100 000 in 2005 to £3.3-million last year, according to reports.
In the first three weeks of this year, 25 ships have reportedly been attacked and five captured with an estimated 700 crew members.
“Concerns over Somali piracy are also being attended to by the security institutions,” Sisulu said. “We are working with other defence forces and security agencies of the region to protect the SADC maritime zone.”
Government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi earlier said that the Cabinet had agreed to explore initiatives aimed at helping Somalia to counter some of the root causes of the problem in the area.
It further supported the implementation of the Eastern and Southern African Indian Ocean strategy to deal with piracy along the coast of Somalia.
Sisulu said discussions were under way with the relevant authorities in the region to find ways of combating piracy. “The strategy will aim at analysing the threats, and how we should respond to the problems that are fast confronting us,” she said.
South African peacekeepers
On ensuring peace and security on the continent, Sisulu said South Africa would continue to deploy its forces in conflict-torn countries with the focus on peace-keeping missions.
She said Pretoria would be sending about 2 240 military personnel to operations in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, and Central Africa Republic.
“These deployments are tasked with restoring peace, training and formalising and developing security structures of those countries to stabilize and facilitate economic growth and a better life for the citizens,” Sisulu said.