South Africa’s third new sub arrives

2008-05-22 00:00

The last of the three South African Navy submarines bought as part of the controversial arms deal, arrived in Simon’s Town outside Cape Town yesterday.

Navy authorities said the arrival of the submarine marks “the end of the chapter in the Navy component of the arms deal”.

The German-built SAS Queen Modjadji 1 joins her two sister submarines the SAS Manthatisi, which arrived in 2006, and SAS Charlotte Maxee, which sailed to the country’s shores last year.

Accompanied by South African, Argentinean, Uruguayan and Brazilian naval warships, the sub arrived amid much fanfare and was welcomed by family members of the crew, the Navy and government officials.

She left Germany on April 2 with the 36-strong crew who have been away from home since January 2.

The submarine is named in honour of the late Queen Maselekwane Modjadji, also known as the “Rain Queen”, of the Balobedu Ba Ga-Modjadji nation in Limpopo.

Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota said the sub will play an important role in regional peace-keeping.

“It is fitting that the SAS Queen Modjadji should bear the name of the woman, whose reign saw the entry of the Balobedu into an age of peace and harmony.

“[The submarine] brings to the continent a significant strategic deterrent capability,” he said during the handover ceremony.

When the arms deal was approved in 1999 the Navy had an option to purchase a fourth submarine.

However, this will no longer be explored. Admiral Hanno Teuteberg said this is because the three submarines require less time for maintenance and can therefore spend more time operational.

“In addition to that the submarines have a life-cycle of about 30 years each,” said Teuteberg

The submarines will be used to deter and clamp down on possible smuggling and piracy and will also be used for combat search and rescue.

Officials have, however, admitted to a shortage of skilled personnel to sail the boats, and hence stressed that the Navy will be embarking on a “huge” submariner recruitment drive very soon.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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