n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A wake-up call for Navies in the SADC region : towards more effective maritime law enforcement

Volume 29 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



This article investigates whether the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) can, within the current legal framework, ensure effective law enforcement at sea. The article uses the South African Navy's anti-piracy operations as example to identify critical gaps in future law enforcement training and operations. The threat posed by pirates on the East Coast of Africa and the global response to it, highlights the importance of maritime security. Although law enforcement is traditionally regarded as a police function, many police services lack the capacity to enforce the law at sea, necessitating naval involvement and consequently blurring the lines between law enforcement and military operations. In a bid to provide maritime security and prevent piracy in the Mozambique Channel, South Africa entered into a multinational agreement with Mozambique and Tanzania. Operation Copper has been operating since 2011 and with the marked decline of piracy on the East Coast the argument has been made that the expense of the operation can no longer justify the long term commitment of limited resources. Should the focus not be shifted to the West Coast where South Africa has recently entered into the first large marine ecosystem convention with Namibia and Angola? Although the threat to maritime security in the Benguela Current is mainly limited to illegal fishing and drug trafficking, the looming threat of piracy further up the West Coast may soon necessitate anti-piracy operations in this area as well. Even if the SA Navy is adequately resourced, in order to enable it to meet its obligations, the question of governance remains pertinent. Regional maritime security strategies may be supported by the domestic legislative and strategic framework, but the same cannot be said for the SANDF's operational policy framework. There is a glaring lacuna in the Department of Defence's (DoD) policy and standard operating procedures. Effective law enforcement generally concludes with prosecution and punishment, yet South Africa neglects to take responsibility for this final step in its operations at sea, a fact exacerbated by the lack of appropriate training of its soldiers in the law enforcement arena.

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