November 10, 2011

Memorandum on piracy signed with South Africa

The Mozambican and South African governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the fight against maritime piracy. The signing ceremony took place in Pretoria during a meeting of the Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security between the two countries. The delegations attending the meeting were headed by Mozambican Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi and his South African counterpart, Lindiwe Sisulu.
A statement from the meeting declared that joint naval and air patrols between Mozambique and South Africa have "significantly reduced" piracy in the Mozambique Channel. This follows an agreement signed by the two defence ministers in June to join forces in the fight against Somali pirate gangs off the Mozambican coast, which is almost 2,500 kilometres long.

The threat from piracy to Mozambican interests became graphically clear on 28 December last year, when Somali pirates hijacked a Mozambican fishing vessel, the "Vega 5". They took the vessel into Somali waters, turned it into a pirate "mother ship", and used it to attack merchant shipping in the Arabian sea. The career of these pirates was cut short when two Indian anti-piracy vessels engaged the "Vega 5" in a gun battle on 12 March, during which the "Vega 5" caught fire, and the pirates and crew members alike jumped overboard. The Indian ships picked up 74 people from the "Vega 5" - 61 pirates and 13 members of the original crew, 12 Mozambicans and one Indonesian. A further seven Mozambicans and two Indonesian were missing, presumed drowned.

The Defence and Security Commission stressed the need to involve Tanzania in the anti-piracy patrols. "Given the urgency of the matter, the Trilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Security between South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania must be finalised as soon as possible", the statement urged. The Commission also "underlined the need that rhino poaching be considered a priority crime for joint operations".
Demand for rhinoceros horn has led to an upsurge in the slaughter of rhinos. According to the figures from South African National Parks, so far this year poachers have killed 341 rhinos, compared with 333 in 2010. South Africa has become a target for international poaching rings, because it has the largest rhino populations in the world - about 2,000 black rhinos and 19,000 white rhinos. Rhino horn is used as s a component in Asian "traditional medicine". The idea that rhino horn has curative or aphrodisiac powers is laughable since it is made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails. The Commission decided that "a Technical Committee must be formed to finalise a strategy to protect wildlife". This Committee should be up and running by February 2012, and report on progress to the next meeting of the Defence and Security Commission. (AIM)


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