In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on the security situation in Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique and its impact on South Africa’s foreign policy aspirations for a secure and peaceful Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The Minister of the Department said that the security situation in Cabo Delgado is highly complex and continuously evolving. The insurgency began with basic weapons but in the last few months weaponry used has become sophisticated. In 2020, there has been an escalation of attacks in Cabo Delgado.
The Minister then gave a background overview of the Cabo Delgado region of Mozambique – its geographical location, the challenges it is facing, including the potential insurgency by terrorist groups from other parts of the continent, based on a few previous violent attacks in recent years. She added that during the first half of 2020, there were a series of attacks, increasingly violent, characterised with sabotage against entire villages, civilians, government buildings, NGOs and churches. The attacks were mainly against the state’s own population and no westerners have been targeted. Around 250 000 people have been internally displaced roughly 10% of the population of Cabo Delgado. More than 11 000 people reported dead. The violence has affected some of the neighbouring provinces through internally displaced migration.
She indicated that it cannot be confirmed whether or not this is a guerrilla movement evolving into a terrorism group or a terrorism group using guerrilla tactics in search of political, financial and moral support from other radicalised religious groups.
She stated that as part of the values enshrined in the South African Constitution, South Africa will always seek to achieve global peace; this is part of SA’s foreign policy, driven by the principles of Ubuntu, equality and a search for common humanity with all in the globe. She added that there were various summits hosted within the Southern African Development Community region for solidarity and commitment to supporting Mozambique.
There are a range of implications for South Africa – with the biggest being internally displaced persons might end up seeking refuge in our country. Great opportunity also exists for SA to import natural gas from Mozambique; the security of Cabo Delgado is of great interest to SA and her energy diversification strategy. The Minister indicated that South Africa is proposing continued direct engagement at principal levels. There should be increased discussion on appropriate solutions at regional and continental levels on the conflict.
Members said that DIRCO is the only Department throughout the country that has adhered to Treasury regulations on the issue of personal protective equipment. The Committee applauds DIRCO under the leadership of the Minister and her Deputy Ministers.
Introductory Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting and welcomed the Minister, Deputy Ministers and officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). She said as legislators, the Committee has a mandate of overseeing the activities of DIRCO, how international developments influence South Africa and relations with other countries. The Minister has championed DIRCO’s mandate very well on behalf of government. The Committee is aware of the many conflicts and hotspots on the continent and the world. However, the Committee called the Department today to share information on a developing conflict close to South Africa, in the northern parts of Mozambique, which falls under the SADC region. It is therefore an information session for Members. This conflict has bought home the reality that the region is not immune to conflict. As the Committee responsible for international relations, it would appreciate it if the Department shares information as to what implications this conflict will have on South Africa and the region. The emerging conflict in Mozambique is of great concern not only to the Committee but to society as well. This is happening right at the doorstep of SA and it is a threat to the SADC region, which has so far been considered as a beacon of hope and peace on the continent. She said there might be sensitive information released in the meeting and cautioned the Minister, DIRCO officials and Members as this meeting is open to the public.
DIRCO’s presentation on the security situation in Cabo Delgado and its impact on SADC
Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of DIRCO, greeted everyone present in the meeting. She said that DIRCO has prepared a set of slides to present to the Committee. This is an unusual matter because DIRCO is dealing with a country which has sovereign rights on its information and DIRCO has really been trying to obtain information both from publicly accessible media and some reference to meetings DIRCO has been part of. The security situation in Cabo Delgado is highly complex and continuously evolving. The insurgency began with basic weapons but in the last few months weaponry used has become sophisticated. In 2020, there has been an escalation of attacks in Cabo Delgado.
Cabo Delgado: The Region
Cabo Delgado is a province in the Northern part of Mozambique, located 2 600 km from the capital, Maputo. It borders Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The province is rich in precious mineral and a location of prime Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) megaprojects; this might be a fuelling factor behind the conflict. The projects have potential to catapult Mozambique into middle-income country status and place Mozambique among the top 10 LNG producers in the world. The threat DIRCO is noticing and is very worrying, is from an insurgency group known as Ahlu Sunna wal Jama (ASWJ) or Al-Shabaab as it is called in other parts of the continent. The region is currently faced with triple challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, the violent insurgency, as well as a humanitarian crisis caused by the insurgency and cyclones Ida and Kenneth of 2019. In 2010 locals warned the State of the emergence of radicalisation in some parts of the province. Province has been experiencing violent attacks since 05 October 2017. This is not a new conflict; attacks began on government forces and buildings, including on civilians in local villages. First half of 2020 has been marked by series of attacks, increasingly violent, characterised with sabotage against entire villages, civilians, government buildings, NGOs and churches. The attacks are mainly against the state’s own population and no westerners have been targeted. All Western investments in the province are protected by private security companies. This have left more than 10% of the province’s population internally displaced.
As for the identity of the insurgents, it cannot be confirmed whether or not this is a guerrilla movement evolving into a terrorism group or a terrorism group using guerrilla tactics in search of political, financial and moral support from other radicalised religious groups. The main districts affected are Mocimboa da Praia, Quissanga, Muidumbe and Macomia. In Macomia, for example, of the 52 villages, 37 have experienced attacks by the insurgency, with some having recurrent and repetitive attacks. Occupation of towns for extended periods of time has become a feature and some towns and villages remain abandoned. The greatest concern was the announcement of the recent capture of the port town of Mocimboa da Praia in August 2020. This is most worrying because it empowers this group in a way that is of great concern to South Africa.
South Africa’s Policy for Peace and Security
As part of the values enshrined in the South African Constitution, SA will always seek to achieve global peace; this is part of SA’s foreign policy, driven by the principles of Ubuntu, equality and a search for common humanity with all in the globe. Committee Members are aware that SA adopted the theme of silencing the guns as theme for the 2020 Chair of the African Union (AU). The emergence of conflict in Mozambique is a worrying and the Minister fears reversal of the peace that has characterised SADC for many years. South Africa will intensify efforts to provide support to Mozambique to end the insecurity speedily and to limit its impact.
Implications of the conflict: Internally Displaced Persons
Since the beginning of this year 2020, the attacks have been getting more violent as reported by various sources and encompassing a wider geographical spread. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that around 250 000 people have been internally displaced roughly 10% of the population of Cabo Delgado. More than 11 000 people reported dead. The violence has affected some of the neighbouring provinces through internally displaced migration. The violence has also disturbed the livelihoods of farmers (mostly subsistence) that fear returning to their land.
The insecurity came up in the February 2020 AU Assembly and other side meetings of the organisation. The insurgency has now received the attention of three UN agencies in Mozambique, i.e. UNHCR, UNRC and UNODC, all highlighting the different elements of the conflict. The UN launched, in early June 2020, a $35.5 million appeal for a Rapid Response Plan to Cabo Delgado to be implemented from May to December 2020 for the humanitarian crisis.
Regional Response: SADC
The Republic of Zimbabwe as Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation convened Extraordinary Organ Troika plus Republic of Mozambique Summit of Heads of State and Government in Harare, on 19 May 2020. Government of Mozambique was requested to share information with relevant SADC structures to determine the type of support required from the region and also considered to consider the Road Map to be developed by Mozambique to address terrorist activities in Cabo Delgado. Inter-State Defence and Security Committee (ISDSC) and Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee (ISPDC) were directed to meet urgently to consider the Road Map to be submitted by Mozambique. Extraordinary Organ Troika Plus Republic of Mozambique Summit of Heads of State and Government directed the State Security Sub-Committee (SSSC) to urgently explore avenues for intelligence sharing among Member States as part of joint efforts to counter terrorist activities in Mozambique and terrorism in general.
The SADC Secretariat was directed to submit a report of the joint meeting of ISPDC and ISDSC as well as proposals by SSSC to Chairperson of the Organ, as a matter of urgency. Member States were urged to support the Mozambique government in its fight against the terrorist insurgency. The 40th Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, on 17 August 2020, welcomed the decision by Mozambique to bring to the attention of SADC the violent attacks in country. The summit commended Mozambique for its continued efforts towards combatting terrorism and violent attacks. The summit expressed SADC solidarity and commitment to support Mozambique and condemned all acts of terrorism and violent attacks. It was noted that ISPDC and ISDSC had not met in order to allow Mozambique time to finalise preparations of Road Map on how to address terrorist activities in Cabo Delgado, including sustainable ways of addressing the nexus between terrorism activities, extremism, radicalisation and indication on the required support from the Region.
Implications for South Africa
There are a range of implications for SA – with the biggest being internally displaced persons might end up seeking refuge in SA. Mozambique has just assumed the Chair for SADC, which is a great opportunity for both countries to strengthen cooperation between SADC and AU as well as between South Africa and Mozambique. South Africa is also the incoming Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, and will be involved directly in regional peace and security matters for the next three years. Great opportunity exists for SA to import natural gas from Mozambique; the security of Cabo Delgado is of great interest to SA and her energy diversification strategy. SA’s security agencies need to enhance their capacity and data in order to allow for appropriate decisions to be considered.
The Minister indicated that South Africa is proposing continued direct engagement at principal levels. There should be increased discussion on appropriate solutions at regional and continental levels on the conflict. DIRCO also believes there should be increased information sharing between Mozambique and its regional partners. She said that increased maritime security cooperation is vital between regional partners as the insurgents have seized a port town.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for an interesting and informative presentation. She said the report was very clear and asked Members to make comments or pose questions to the Minister.
Mr T Mpanza (ANC) said the presentation was very informative and assisted Members to understand what the issues are in Mozambique. He said it should be important for the Committee to respect the sovereignty of Mozambique and not be seen as trying to meddle in the affairs of Mozambique. However, South Africa (SA) cannot be by-standers because Mozambique neighbours it. Whatever happens in Mozambique affects SA. He said that he supports DIRCO’s efforts on peacekeeping in SADC and the continent as a whole. The Committee will study the information and will be guided by DIRCO on further developments. He asked the Chairperson to schedule another meeting so DIRCO can give further information and give the Committee an in-depth discussion on the progress of the solutions implemented.
Ms T Msane (EFF) said the Committee knows Mozambique is a signatory to 15 international conventions and state protocols against terrorism. There is also article one, the SADC Mutual Defence pact, which stipulates an attack to a state party would be considered a threat to the regional peace and security and such attack would be met with immediate collective action. Why has SADC not attacked since this conflict has been ongoing since 2017? TRIOKA tasked Mozambique in May to bring forward intelligence and by what the Minister has presented it seems Mozambique has not given intelligence to SADC. This gives the perception that both SADC and Mozambique are slow act. SADC should send a delegation to Mozambique to go on a fact-finding mission. There was a South African Defence Force deployed to Cabo Delgado in 2011 on a piracy patrol. Is it possible for DIRCO to use the information gathered from that deployment? Mozambique is also using a private security company called Dyck Advisory Group (DAG); she asked the Minister to brief the Committee on why the African continent is using private foreign military companies.
Mr B Nkosi (ANC) understood the conflict was a complex situation. He said the Committee should see this as a continuing development and DIRCO should regularly brief the Committee on developments.
The Minister said the Committee was correct. South Africa could not act as a single actor in this matter and must work very close with SADC and the AU. SADC has, within itself, the capabilities to develop a response to this conflict.
The Minister said that she is not the spokesperson for Mozambique and would not be able to respond to all questions. She said Mozambique is a sovereign country and if it seeks assistance, it will ask for it. Should SA be under threat, the country would be ready to respond but it should not just go into Mozambique without Mozambique requesting help. Mozambique has been engaged by SADC and this is why SADC asked Mozambique to develop a road map on what it needs, and should the need arise South Africa would help. She said DIRCO cannot send a delegation and will be guided by Mozambique on this matter. She said much of the information on the conflict comes from the media, DIRCO has bee trying to get more information from SADC to verify the information. She said there has been an increasing sophistication in the weaponry used. The role played by SANDF in 2011 was purely based on patrolling the coast as there was a piracy threat in the area. The private security company was hired by Mozambique and have not gone there as mercenaries. Once Mozambique submits a road map to the SADC, SADC will have to consider in what sort of intervention it will consider on land or on sea or both. The Minister said DIRCO will continue to brief the Committee and once more information arises, DIRCO would provide it.
Ms Msane asked what the Ministers about using private military companies on the African continent.
The Minister responded that in diplomacy you are asked not to state your feelings and making statements based on feelings is not a good thing in the field of diplomacy. What she said will be carried all over. However, she believes Africa countries needs to use its own internal resources to be able to execute on the basis of their constitutional framework. She cannot state a definite position for the whole continent. SADC is playing a very important role as the force intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo and this shows the capabilities of the region. SADC will ensure the same support will be given to Mozambique.
The Chairperson asked to what extend has this conflict affected Mozambique economic growth and does SADC have plans to assist in that regard.
She said this is a very important question and then explained the whole region has to recognise that the impact of the insurgents is made worse by COVID-19, which has caused many of the region’s economies to stagnate. Mozambique was among the top 20 highest GDP countries in Africa but there has been a stall in economic development; there has been a concern for the country among SADC partners. SADC must engage carefully with these questions of economic activity.
Closing Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and DIRCO officials for sharing an informative presentation with the Committee. Member will be able to respond from an informed viewpoint when asked on this conflict. The Committee notes the presentation and hopes it will not be the last meeting with DIRCO. The Minister is also welcomed to write to the Committee and request a meeting.
She thanked the Minister for leading the Department on a path of excellence. DIRCO is the only Department throughout the country that has adhered to Treasury regulations on the issue of personal protective equipment. The Committee applauds DIRCO under the leadership of the Minister and her Deputy Ministers. The Committee will not shy away from giving credit where it is due, and it will always encourage DIRCO.
The meeting was adjourned.
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