Jean-Jacques Cornish

South Africa cannot afford to intervene militarily in Mozambique

The pressure was on democratic South Africa even before President Nelson Mandela stood in the amphitheater and said “never again” to apartheid.

The African countries that helped liberate South Africa have never stopped pushing  it to muscularly help enforce and keep peace on the continent.

That expectation is born of an inflated fear of the apartheid military and an ignorance of the magnitude and cost of integrating the new South African armed forces.

So, to the chagrin of its neighbours, South Africa repeatedly had to say “sorry, no”  when asked to put boots on the ground.

Providing such military assistance requires having at least four soldiers in reserve for every one peacekeeper deployed.

So it was at great cost that the South African army became involved in operations in Comoros, Rwanda, Liberia, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Burundi, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Central African Republic and Uganda.

Only about 10% of South Africa 40 000—member army is medically fit for deployment as peacekeepers.

The economic constraints that made this too costly 25 years ago are much worse today.

The officer-heavy army that spends 80% of its budget on salaries simply cannot afford to provide peacekeepers.

Hopefully things will improve when South African forces are integrated into the proposed SADC standby brigade.

It does not seem that  Mozambique can wait for this.

South Africa’s eastern neighbour is plainly unable to contain the seven Islamist insurgency in the oil-rich northern Cabo Delgado province.

The Ansur Al Sunna fighters aligned with Al Shabaab and ISIS have killed more than 1100 people and displaced over 250 000.

Workers for the companies that have invested more than $50-billion in exploiting the gas fields that will make Mozambique a major energy player are among the terrorists’ victims.

The insurgents have demonstrated an ability briefly to occupy the town of Mocimboa Da Praia and Macomia.

Mozambique’s security forces have responded with human rights violations that have spurred sympathy with those interests.

Their cause is vague but the marginalization of the local population and endemic poverty in the country makes it all-too-viable

Experience during Mozambique’s exhausting civil war demonstrated that the problems of that country inevitably spill over into South Africa.

Last month South African police arrested a five-person kidnapping gang at Kliprivier south of Johannesburg and took possession of an ISIS flag and several training manuals.

Kidnapping for ransom to swell their financial reserves is a hallmark of the Mozambican terrorists.

South African Defense Intelligence operatives were expelled from Mozambique before the COVID 19 lockdown 

This has forced the SANDF to rely on private intelligence sources to learn what is happening in its eastern neighbour.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has named Geraldine Fraser Moleketi as his new High Commissioner in Mozambique. indicating that he is taking a much closer personal interest  in developments there.

A growing lobby for intervention, according to security specialists,  includes SASNDF chief General Solly Shokwe, Defence Minister Noziviwe Mapisa Nqakula and her husband and predecessor Charles Nqakula who is a former High Commissioner to Maputo.

Analyst Joe Hanlon reports that South African rapid deployment forces have been put into special training preparatory to deployment in Mozambique.

Dangerously moving in that direction could trap South Africa in the way Vietnam sucked in the United States and Afghanistan ensnared Russia.

Surely it would be better to limit South African involvement to mediation while hastening the  formation of the SADC intervention force

to play a significant regional role.

Enquire about availability for radio, podcasts, reporting or opinion pieces.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.