By BRIAN SOKUTU
With the history of joint military exercises and war games, dating as far back as the 19th century, South Africa was this week host to a joint military exercises between local and soldiers from China and Russia.
As the exercises, taking place in KwaZulu-Natal’s Port of Richards Bay, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth dominated the military scene, they coincided with South Africa marking national Armed Forces Day – paying tribute to fallen soldiers.
Asked about the significance of the joint military exercises, leading South African defence expert Helmoed Heitman, said exercises between allies were “essential to ensure efficient cooperation in operations”.
Heitman said exercises with other countries were “valuable, because there is always something to learn – even if it is how not to do things”.
He explained: “Exercises between navies are particularly important, because ships of different navies might find themselves having to work together in a crisis – a shipwreck, a pirate attack or a disaster ,like a tsunami.
“It is critical that they can communicate and understand each other’s procedures.
“The SANDF (SA National Defence Force) has conducted various exercises with foreign forces since the 1990s – with the US, Germany, France, India and Brazil, on a regular basis and also often with ships of other navies that are passing our coast.
“The Navy has been the most active, but there have also been SA Air Force and army exercises.
“With the Germans, it has mostly been the navy and the SA Air Force.
“With the US, the SANDF has also involved the army on health service.
“We have also exercised with other SADC (SA Development Community) forces – some being quite large and complex – like the Golfinho.
“The only issue with Ex Mosi II, is the timing – as it makes it look as if we are supportive of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their actions there.”
As part of the festivities, the 42nd Chinese naval escort fleet, consisting of the guided-missile destroyer Huainan, the missile frigate Rizhao and a supply vessel, arrived at the Port of Richards Bay over the to participate in a joint maritime exercise.
The South African naval force held a grand welcoming ceremony at the dock to celebrate the occasion.
More than 60 people, including Acting Chinese Consul General in Durban Sun Anlin, officials of South Africa’s military and representatives of overseas Chinese, welcomed the arrival of the fleet as Frigate Rizhao successfully docked at the Port of Richards Bay at 5pm local time over the weekend.