The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) should abandon its practice of "catching and releasing" Somali pirates and adopt robust rules of engagement before piracy
seriously harmed trade off the east coast of the region, the government said yesterday.
South African warships have been patrolling as far afield as the northern Mozambique channel as the pirates move further south. Sadc has apparently had a "catch and release" policy with regard to Somali pirates, in sharp contrast to actions taken by international navies in the region.
A Cabinet cluster led by Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Sadc had an international and regional responsibility to help promote good order at sea.
Threats of piracy were of particular concern to Sadc, whose coastline and shipping lanes were vulnerable to maritime crime and "as Sadc's coastal areas do not fall within patrol areas of the international anti-pirate forces, Sadc will have to take responsibility for its own maritime security".
"A threat around the Horn of Africa and Sadc waters will detrimentally affect Sadc's trade and economy. Maritime security is a regional concern to all Sadc member states. Both Sadc coastal states and Sadc landlocked states are equally dependent on maritime trade. A policy is required to combat piracy in Sadc waters and to safeguard the economies of the many landlocked countries."
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said piracy had not yet had a discernable effect on Sadc trade "at this time", but was definitely a potential threat to trade on the east coast.
"Sadc must establish robust rules of engagement for anti- piracy, which should be largely consistent with the rules of engagement of other regions .
"With regard to the legal framework, Sadc member states should ratify or accede to international maritime conventions/treaties/regimes and the incorporation of these into their national law. Sadc members should seek to put in place comprehensive legal regimes , consistent with international law, to prosecute pirates," he said.
The practice of "catch and release" of pirates should be stopped, since it allows experienced pirates to execute more sophisticated acts of piracy. Sadc should strengthen and harmonise regional and domestic legal frameworks for arrest, awaiting- trial detention, prosecution and imprisonment or repatriation of pirates, Ms Sisulu said.
Ms Sisulu's cluster statement concluded that Sadc would have to take responsibility for its own maritime security in co-operation with other regions, task forces, navies and role players.
"Piracy on the eastern coast of Africa will not be stopped unless the root causes of insecurity in Somalia are addressed. Sadc should engage the African Union to consider decentralised initiatives for promoting peace, security and development in Puntland and Somaliland, especially since the transitional federal government in Somalia is struggling to make headway to exert its national authority in creating stability, as well as enforcing law and order on land and sea."
Source: Business Day