#UnrestSA likely behind delay of SADC mission to Mozambique

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  • The SADC Standby Force was supposed to deploy to Mozambique on Thursday.
  • The internal deployment will leave very few forces for the regional mission to Mozambique, say experts.
  • Mozambique's defence minister says the country is prepared to receive the force, and any further delays are not their responsibility.

Although the Southern African Development Community's Standby Force was supposed to head off to Mozambique on Thursday, the unrest in South Africa may have prevented this.

Soldiers have been deployed to help quell unrest in parts of South Africa, delaying the 15 July deployment.

"My view is that in all probability, the deployment will be placed on hold, given the scale of the operation requirements here in South Africa," said Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the South African National Defence Union.

Greeff said the code of conduct for the deployment, published on Wednesday, marked a shift in the position put forward by Defence Chief, Major General Siphiwe Sangweni, in a security cluster meeting on Tuesday.

READ | King Mswati III calls for open forum to discuss unrest, but activists call for boycott

In that joint briefing, Sangweni said the SANDF was to support the police service, which would remain at the fore of the response to the unrest. The 14 July government gazette broadens the SANDF's mandate.

"When the SANDF is employed in cooperation with the SAPS, SANDF members have the same powers and authority as the SAPS, excluding the investigation of crime," said the gazette.

"You'll see choppers in the sky and military aircraft," Greeff said of the deployment. "It will be difficult to see how the Mozambique deployment will not be put on hold. It's a matter of priorities."

READ | Mozambique dithers over deployment of SADC force

"The biggest impact is going to be on the landward component of the SADC intervention to Mozambique simply because with 25 000 hypothetically being mobilised, that would literally draw every single able-bodied soldier from the SANDF into the internal deployment in South Africa," said John Stupart, director of the African Defence Review.

"As a consequence, that obviously means there's almost nothing left for Mozambique," said Stupart.

While the core component of the infantry will not be immediately available to deploy to Mozambique, elite and special forces may still be available, added Stupart. Other military branches, such as the air force, navy and perhaps health services, may also be available to deploy, as well as the commanding force.

A South African general was set to command the regional force, supported by a deputy from Botswana, with a South African also filling the position of chief of staff.

The South African Department of Defence did not respond to a request for comment on when the standby force would deploy.

The deployment of the SADC Standby Force was further held up by the Mozambican government's delay in signing the status of force document, which would legally allow the regional force to enter the troubled Cabo Delgado province.

By Thursday, it was still unclear whether Mozambique had signed the document. The SADC did not respond to requests for clarity.

Still, Mozambique's Defence Minister, Jaime Neto, told journalists the country was ready to welcome the SADC force.

A SADC team was already in the country to coordinate the arrival of the SADC force.

If the force's deployment was delayed, this was not Mozambique's responsibility, Neto said, according to Maputo-based news site O Pais.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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