The South African Navy’s Valour class frigate SAS Spioenkop (F147) has left Mozambique and is en route to its homeport in Simon Town for maintenance.
The Valour Class frigate will undergo extensive maintenance once it arrives in Simon’s Town, says the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division communication officer Captain Anelisiwe Tamela.
SAS Spioenkop was deployed to Mozambique on 2 March, to replace two SA Navy offshore patrol vessels – SAS Isaac Dyobha (P1565) and SAS Makhanda (P1569), under Operation Vikela, South Africa’s contribution to SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique).
During her deployment in the Mozambican Channel, Spioenkop carried out barrier patrols between Pemba and Tanzania and collaborated with the Tanzanian Navy ship (TNS) Fatundu and Forças Armadas de Defesa Mozambique (FADM) patrol boats.
Spioenkop’s maintenance stint is coming at a time when the South African Navy is being negatively impacted by the shortage of funds.
An 18 August 2021 progress report from the South African Department of Defence (DoD) presented at a Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) meeting explains that the South African Navy (SAN) does not have enough funds to refit most of its frigates and submarines to keep them in top fighting shape.
Only R786 million was allocated for naval vessel refit for the 2021/22 financial year, out of the required R1.479 billion. The average cost estimate for a frigate refit amounts to R687 million and that of a submarine refit amounts to R660 million.
“This impacts negatively on the preparation of naval platforms for force preparation and forces employment,” the DoD stated. “The underfunding of the refit, maintenance, and repair of vessels…is the major contributing factor towards the non-achievement of planned sea hours.”
Also, the SAN reported lower time at sea due to the shrinking budget, the Navy failed to achieve its annual sea hour target of 10,000 hours per year.
Only one of the SAN’s four frigates, SAS Amatola, was partially refitted in 2014/15 and only one of the three submarines, SAS Manthatisi, was refitted in 2013/14.
Refitting SAS Spioenkop is a welcome relief for the SAN, as the availability of vessels to boost its operational efficiency.
During her time in Mozambique, Spioenkop was praised by the SAMIM force commander Major General Xolani Mankayi who noted that the ship and crew were “… given an enormous task of ensuring the Mozambican channel is free from terrorist activities and denying them freedom of action along the coast.”
“I know that the operation was full of challenges and a lot of lessons have been learnt through this deployment and many of you will take home some much needed experience to be applied in future operations,” Mankayi said. “To the crew, you have represented SADC and your country very well and it does not go unnoticed.”
“The successful operation is not one of where we count dead bodies in shallow graves but where the given mandate is achieved, with minimal force and strategic planning that achieves the outcome that the people of Mozambique regain their dignity of enjoying freedom of economic activities in their birth land and more especially in the affected areas of Cabo Delgado.