Photo: GCIS

Has SANDF moved troops into Mozambique following ISIS threat?

Following a threat from ISIS towards South Africa this week, SANDF’s deployment in Mozambique has come under intense scrutiny.


Photo: GCIS

Events across the border with Mozambique have allegedly piqued the interest of SANDF and the government in the past six weeks after Islamic State (ISIS) insurgents continued to assert their presence in the northern territories of the bordering country. But has South Africa already sent in troops to help contain the threat?

Islamic State threat to South Africa

DA MP and shadow defence minister, Kobus Marais, asked the Joint Standing Committee on Wednesday about the budget for the maritime reaction squadron and special forces – which, according to his knowledge, are deployed in Mozambique (but not linked to ISIS). No concrete answer was given by the military representatives present.

Darren Olivier is the Director at African Defence Review. He said that SANDF is in a difficult position, as they must walk a legal tightrope while keeping their operations top secret. There is a South African military deployment in Mozambique, but this most-recent deployment remains off the radar:

“Any deployment of SANDF troops must be made public via a letter to Parliament that details size, deployment time, and estimated cost. But that is incompatible with clandestine Special Forces operations. Until now, this legal incompatibility has mostly been ignored for small-scale deployments.”

“There is already an existing deployment authorisation for SANDF troops in Mozambique. They have been deployed to Mozambique a number of times in the past for Operation Copper [unrelated to ISIS threat], providing shore-based security for the SA Navy frigates and offshore patrol vessels that conduct anti-piracy patrols.”

“This latest alleged deployment is probably not covered by Operation Copper, and may be illegal if it’s taking place. But revealing a clandestine special forces mission isn’t ideal either. It may be worth amending laws to allow for special forces deployments to be authorised by closed sessions of the Joint Standing Committees.”

Darren Olivier

Has SANDF troops gone to Mozambique to handle ISIS?

So based on that input, we know that the intricacies of this operation mean that we’ll be hearing very little information going forward. It’s not been confirmed that the extra deployment is there specifically to deal with the threat of ISIS, but there could be a few legal technicalities that need ironing out with regards to this mission.

Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province has seen an increase in terrorist activity, led by ISIS members, since June. Earlier this week, the terrorist organisation warned South Africa against getting involved in its operations across the border – vowing to start a war on our shores if SANDF troops were brought in.