Minister of Defence Briefing on Presidential Fleet Review
04 Sep 2008
The Minister of Defence, Hon Mosiuoa Lekota informed the media that Naval Fleet Reviews dated back many centuries and were formal events that were held by navies throughout the world. This took the form of ships in an ordered formation at sea with their crews lining the ships’ sides to pay full naval marks of respect to the monarch.
During the Presidential Fleet Review, the South African Navy would display the rejuvenated and transformed Fleet to the Commander in Chief, President Thabo Mbeki, and to the country. The Review would illustrate that the SA Navy was now ready for further instructions for the deployment of the ships and submarines for the purpose that they were purchased.
The South African Navy, over the last few years, made the transition from a Navy whose inventory comprised relatively ageing and obsolete hardware and systems, to a Navy with a fleet of some of the most technologically advanced ships and submarines in the southern hemisphere.
The last two decades saw the South African Navy use its ships and submarines to establish a presence at sea and to undertake limited sea control. The Navy was now entering an era that required the country to operate within a new dimension of maritime warfare. The recently acquired vessels meant that the Navy could provide maritime defence, both in South African waters and abroad. The ways in which the fleet executed its Constitutional mandate had been enhanced for the better, and the SA Navy was now better placed than ever before to support the objectives of the government.
He noted that the SA Navy faced the challenge of skills retention, but that it was working with all the resources it had to map new ways of embracing the principle of “Business Unusual”. In doing so, it would find how to retain its scarce skills and expertise. The Presidential Fleet Review was an affirmation that the South African Navy was indeed, as President Mandela termed it, “the maritime shield of the nation and the guardian of our seas”.
Q: A journalist from SABC Radio asked the Minister if all the vessels would be on show, as there were many media reports about lack of crews and submarines that were not operational. He wanted to know the extent to which the event would provide answers for all those criticisms.
A: The Minister answered that most of the vessels would be on show. However, some of the vessels were occupied with national and international obligations. One of the submarines would not be on show, as it was awaiting spare parts.
Q: The journalist asked if the vessels would be fully crewed.
A: The Minister answered that they would be.
Q: A journalist from the Sowetan asked the Minister to explain what he meant by saying that the country was entering into an era in which it would have to operate in a dimension of maritime warfare. She wanted to know what warfare he was talking about and what evidence there was to show that there was maritime warfare in the world.
A: The Minister stated that he was trying to communicate that as a result of advancement, the generation of ships that were being brought in carried updated technology as well. This technology was rated highly in comparison to that carried by the advanced nations of the world. The last time South Africa made a major acquisition of technology was in the 1960s. This upgrade meant that the country was now being placed in a completely new era. If South Africa were to have to fight a war at this point in time, it would have the capacity to do so.
Q: A journalist from SABC Radio stated that there were many reports recently about the navy wanting to acquire new and different ships. He wanted to know what these plans were, and where the government stood on this issue.
A: The Minister replied that it would be some time before South Africa would have a need to acquire new ships. He thought that what should have been communicated was that there were certain capabilities that the country required, and these could not be sufficiently catered to with fighting ships alone. South Africa was leading in the country in terms of peacekeeping operations. These operations tended to be lengthy engagements. If regard was had to missions that the country had deployed in the Congo, Sudan and various other places, then it would be seen that it was necessary to provide South African troops with the supplies needed for their long stay. The further away that deployment was, the more adverse was the task of providing supplies to troops. Something such as a “sealift”, which could be used to load tanks, spare parts and fuel, and which could stay out at sea for extended periods of time, would allow deployed troops to access supplies at short notice. This type of capability would go a long way to ease the task of sustaining the provision of supplies to troops deployed far from home. He added that travelling by sea was cheaper than providing supplies by air. Air travel might be faster but only a limited amount of supplies could be transported. He added that there would be a point when South Africa would be given the task of supporting missions initiated by the African Union (AU) or by the United Nations (UN). South Africa would thereby attempt to contribute to world peace, as it was a country committed to world peace. However, South Africa was not expected to attack any country, as it was committed to defending itself only if attacked.
Q: The journalist from SABC Radio noted that it would some time before the Navy acquired new ships. He wanted to know how imminent was the acquiring of ships for sealift capabilities.
A: The Minister answered that it was already part of the current acquisition of new ships. The SA Navy was also looking at whether other ships could be converted to those with sealift capabilities.
Q: A journalist from the Sowetan asked if the Minister was confirming that there would be a new ship for sealift capabilities.
A: The Minister stated that in the original contract, the SA Navy was offered the acquisition of a fifth Frigate ship under the negotiated terms. The question was whether to proceed with the negotiation. The Navy had the option of accepting the deal under the negotiated terms, and converting the ship into one with sealift capabilities. This issue had not been finalised. The SA Navy was not looking at acquiring a new order of ships.
Remarks by the Minister of Defence, Mr Mosiuoa Lekota on the Occation of the Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) Media Briefing
4 SEP 08, PARLIARMENT
Naval Fleet Reviews date back many centuries and are formal and pomp ceremonial events that have been held by Navies throughout the world. These prestigious reviews are held to celebrate important events in their naval history and to simultaneously pay tribute to their monarchs. They take the form of ships, ceremonially "dressed" and in an ordered formation at sea with their crews lining the ships' sides to pay full naval marks of respect to the monarch.
A reviewing ship with the Head of State onboard will sail past the formation and receive the naval ceremonial marks of respect from each ship in the formation. This is a very colourful ceremonial event that is conducted with precision navigation and timing and shows off the Navy, not only to the Head of State but also the people of the country.
Tomorrow, the 5th of September 2008 marks the auspicious occasion of the hosting of a Presidential Fleet Review by the South African Navy.
During this Presidential Fleet Review, the South African Navy will display the rejuvenated and transformed Fleet to the Commander in Chief, President Thabo Mbeki and to the people of our Country.
After a record time these new ships and submarines were integrated and operationalised into the South African Navy. That is to say – we are now ready for further instructions for deployment of these ships and submarines for the purpose for which they were purchased.
This significant event marks the culmination of almost a decade of hard work, dedication and commitment on the part of all the young men and women who crew our ships and submarines, those who support them ashore, and those who lead the South African Navy.
As I address you today, I am mindful of the considerable transition which has been made since our last Fleet Review, which took place as part of our South African Navy 7" 5th Anniversary celebrations. At that Review, the great icon of our Democracy, former President Nelson Mandela affirmed that "the sea was a vital national interest, and that our Country accepted the obligation to uphold the freedom of the seas and protect our interests through naval power".
In this regard, the South African Navy has, over the last few years, made the transition from a Navy whose inventory comprised relatively ageing and obsolete hardware and systems, to a Navy with a Fleet of some of the most technologically advanced ships and submarines in the Southern hemisphere.
The new technologies inherent to the MEKO Class Frigates and Type 209 MOD SA Submarines have dramatically altered not only the way in which we operate our Fleet, but also the way in which we support, maintain and sustain our inventory in order to ensure that ordered commitments are met to specification.
Thus whereas the last two decades have seen the South African Navy use its ships and submarines primarily to establish a presence at sea and to undertake limited sea control, we now enter an era which places upon us significantly different challenges, and requires us to operate within a new dimension of maritime warfare.
The considerable sea-keeping ability, long range and endurance of our recently-acquired vessels, mean that the South African Navy is thus able, with the other Navies of the region, to provide maritime defence, both in our waters and abroad. Our regional reach thus includes all areas of the South African Exclusive Economic Zone, as well as the coasts of the Southern African Development Community and beyond.
The ways and means by which the Fleet executes its Constitutional Mandate have been irrevocably enhanced for the better, never before has the South African Navy been better placed to support the objectives of Government and this allows South Africa to be respected as a sovereign State.
The South African Navy has been engaged in operationalising and testing the systems of these new ships and submarines. Over the past months we have held a number of Multi-National exercises, first with the Navies of India and
These exercises have allowed our crews to fully extend themselves and the advanced technology on our highly recently-acquired frigates and submarines, and in all regards, both our sailors and their vessels have performed superbly.
This was perhaps most memorably demonstrated last year during Exercise AMAZOLO, where our Fleet engaged with the Forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, with our success being heralded by the media under the headlines SA Navy Sub Sinks NATO Fleet. This was truly a proud day for all of us, and demonstrated the commitment and passion of the men and women who chose to serve their Country in the sphere of maritime defence.
At this juncture it must be said that, in common with the rest of our Country, continent and indeed the world, daily we face the challenge of skills retention. We are, however, working twenty-four hours a day with all hands on deck to ma- p new ways of appreciating this phenomena, that embrace the principle of Business Unusual, and in so doing retain our scarce skills and expertise.
In conclusion, the Presidential Fleet Review is an affirmation that we, the South African Navy are indeed, as President Mandela so aptly termed us, lithe maritime shield of the Nation and the guardian of our seas"
Gentlemen and ladies of the media, the responsibility of building South Africa and giving our people hope, lies in our individual and collective responsibilities - and with all of us acting in unison this dream will be a reality.
I thank you
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