Going in to tackle the Islamists in northern Mozambique may be the easy part. Getting out can be far more difficult.


South African army stands by to go into Cabo Delgado

Source: Africa Intelligence

The South African army is preparing its troops to go into Mozambique even though Filipe Nyusi has not yet asked Cyril Ramaphosa for military back-up.

The Wallmannsthal military base close to Pretoria has become increasingly busy since the start of July. General Xolani Mankayi has ordered the soldiers of his 43 South African Brigade, who form the rapid intervention unit of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), to begin an intensive training programme.

SANDF chief of staff Solly Shoke is becoming increasingly concerned about the self-proclaimed Islamist insurrection which is consuming Cabo Delgado and wants to have a unit ready to intervene if President Cyril Ramaphosa gives the order to do so. No formal request for military intervention has so far been made, however, by Mozambican head of state Filipe Nyusi.

Intelligence shortfall

General Mankayi, who is confident of his men’s abilities, considers that a mission of less than two months could be sufficient to stabilise the region, but the SANDF is short of information about the Mozambican conflict. The few members of the Defence Intelligence Division present in Mozambique were expelled just before the Covid-19 pandemic and Mozambique does not want to share its own intelligence. South African officers are now turning to private intelligence companies to find out more about the insurrection.

Who supports the intervention?

Although South African involvement in the Mozambican crisis remains hypothetical, Shoke sees it as an opportunity to increase the SANDF’s budget allocation. In his report to the South Africa parliament on 27 May, defence commission chairman Cyril Xaba expressed alarm at the force’s decline. In an unflattering description of the army, the MP detailed parliament’s concerns about the lack of training of the force’s troops and the decrepit state of its vehicles.

In his lobbying for military intervention in Cabo Delgado, Shoke has the backing of defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her husband Charles Nqakula, who is Ramaphosa’s national security adviser. Nqakula has kept up good relations with Frelimo since his time as ambassador in Maputo from 2012 to 2016 and the couple are lobbying to get South Africa involved in Mozambique as soon as Pretoria gets an official request for assistance.