The security of Southern Africa is at serious risk

There is a motivated and capable enemy practically camping out on our doorstep.

It's not often that we turn our attention to matters of national security and issues related to military affairs, but as a part of our daily practice of scanning for important forces of change that could have a material impact on the future, there are a couple of stories that have emerged recently which have raised some alarm bells.

In Northern Mozambique, Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ) — or al-Shabaab - are waging a very successful conflict with government forces and winning large amounts of ground thanks to their superior tactics.

What I wasn't aware of was that in July this year, the South African government has specifically been warned to stay out of the conflict or risk a possible terrorist attack on home soil.

The Secret to the Northern Mozambique Insurgency’s Success - War on the Rocks
This has been a banner year for Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ) — or al-Shabaab, as locals call it — operating in northern Mozambique. Between January and

Now, as President Donald Trump marches steadily towards his final days in office, he has now announced that he will be withdrawing all US Forces out of Somalia, where they have been trying to push back advances by Islamist insurgents in the Horn of Africa.

'Mr. Trump’s push to leave Somalia before he leaves office comes at a delicate time for the East African nation: It is preparing for parliamentary elections next month and a presidential election scheduled for early February. The removal of American troops could complicate any ability to keep election rallies and voting safe from Shabab bombers. It also comes at a time of political turmoil in neighboring Ethiopia, whose army has also battled the Shabab.

Supporters of the mission say it is important for the United States to continue strikes on militants and to help train government forces to prevent their territory from becoming a haven for planning terrorist strikes, much like how Al Qaeda plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks from a home base in Afghanistan. Even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest Republican allies in Congress have warned against troop cuts in Somalia.'

Trump Orders All American Troops Out of Somalia
While the number of forces — about 700 — is small, it is a continuation of President Trump’s efforts to withdraw the United States from what he has described as endless wars.

It may seem obvious, but security in the region is paramount if economic growth and prosperity is to be achieved.

If this growing and interconnected problem is not swiftly dealt with, it has the potential to seriously destabilise any policy efforts to unlock the future through trade and investment.

More than ever, SADC cooperation is needed and far more is needed to be given to South Africa's maritime safety initiatives to combat the threat.

We're all so busy talking about saving SAA that everyone has completely forgotten that there is a far worse enemy practically camping out on our doorstep.

Tech innovations are key to South Africa’s maritime security - ISS Africa
To maintain the benefits of new technology, shrinking maritime capabilities and budget cuts need to be overcome.

Amidst the pressure that the covid-19 pandemic has put on our budget deficit, it'll be interesting to see what the South African government response will be to these developments.

These are obviously issues of national security so it's understandable that cabinet have been tight-lipped about their stance on the matter, but one wonders how much airtime these matter get in amongst important decision as to where or not to give the national carrier yet another chance at survival, and if bottle stores should be allowed to sell Hunters Gold on a Friday or not.

Let's just hope they take it seriously enough and start to actively secure the region once again.

The prospect though of a possible domestic terror attack is a frightening one - that should be a signal that sends shivers down the spine of the battered tourism industry as they look to 2021 for recovery.