Parliament Seeks Answers over Submarine’s Inaction

Shanti Aboobaker, The Star, August 13, 2012

The South African Navy could find itself at Parliament to explain the accident that put the submarine, the SAS Queen Modjadji, out of action.

A board of inquiry has been established to investigate an incident in which the vessel “nosedived” onto the seabed during a training exercise off the coast between Port Elizabeth and Durban, spokesman for the Department of Defence, Siphiwe Dlamini, said.

However, it is possible the SA Navy will also be called to explain the accident to Parliament’s defence oversight committee, as it means SA’s entire submarine fleet – estimated to have cost about R5 billion in the controversial arms deal – is either undergoing repairs or maintenance.

In April, The Star reported that one of SA’s three submarines – the SAS Manthatisi – had spent more than three years in dry dock and was set to remain out of the water for months as the navy waited for a new battery system for it.

The chairman of the National Assembly’s joint standing committee on defence, ANC MP Jerome Maake, did not want to pre-empt any decision to summon the SA Navy for an explanation by the committee, but said this would be discussed and members might ask the department to appear before it and account for the state of the submarine fleet.

Editor’s Note: A reader adds the following commentary:

South Africa bought three submarines in a notoriously corrupt arms deal. The SA Navy then fired most of its white officers, and replaced them with affirmative action appointees.

None of the three submarines is working any longer. The first one was damaged when its battery cables were connected the wrong way around. The second one crashed against a harbour wall. The third one “mysteriously” crashed into the sea floor.

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