Minister denies submarine crew shortage

May 29, 2008
Author: Terry Hutson

Two South African submarines at sea together in this picture, taken last week in False Bay on the arrival of the submarine S103 ‘Queen Modjadji 1’. Forming an escort in honour of the latest vessel to enter service with the South African Navy are ships of the fleet, including frigates and a combat support vessel. In view of the minister’s comments (see below) it might be pointed out that for the past three months or more the South African Navy has taken part virtually non-stop in one naval exercise after another with ships from other navies, including the United States, Germany, India, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and France. In most of these exercises a considerable number of SAN ships have remained at sea together at the same time. Picture by Clinton Wyness

Cape Town, 27 May 2008 – South Africa’s Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota has refuted claims in the media and elsewhere that the navy does not have sufficient trained personnel to man its ships, in particular the submarines.

Lekota was speaking to journalists ahead of his budget vote debate in parliament and only days after the arrival of the navy’s third Type 209 submarine, SAS Queen Modjadji 1, which arrived in Simon’s Town on her delivery voyage last week.

Speaking with some feeling he asked how it was possible for all three submarines to be at sea at the same time if it was true that the navy had crew for only one boat. He called the reports fallacious and said he didn’t know where they stemmed from.

According to Lekota all three submarines are fully commissioned and functioning.

The minister also referred to what he said was a changing scenario for South Africa’s military, which needed to move from being a defence oriented force to one that is capable of reacting to situations further afield than South Africa.

He said the South African National Defence Force needed to be redesigned to take into account South Africa’s involvement in global peace-keeping missions, particularly elsewhere in Africa.

“The demands of sustaining and maintaining forces over long distances in remote and underdeveloped locations, for example during peace missions, are a particular challenge. Such capabilities may differ from what is required to support operations in defence of South Africa or in support of the people of South Africa.”

South Africa’s soldiers had to be equipped with skills that they can impart to the populace of countries where they perform peacekeeping operations, he said. After demobilisation from the SANDF these soldiers would be able to carry these skills into the local economy.

Lekota said that soldiers who learned only how to shoot and be shot at were becoming redundant to the country’s needs and requirements as well as the economies of the countries where South Africa is engaged in peace-keeping and reconstruction. - P&S



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