Search and Rescue

In early 2000 a cyclone swept across Southern Africa. The five weeks of heavy rainfall caused the most catastrophic flooding in Mozambique’s history. At least 800 people died, but of the many survivors one girl in particular made the news. That is because Rosita Pedro was born in a tree, her mother having been trapped for three days above the swirling flood waters.

It may not have happened but for a South African helicopter crew. In the search and rescue operation which went on for weeks, they spotted her just in time. A medic was lowered, to help the birth and cut the baby’s umbilical cord, before winching the two to safety.

South Africa does not have a single organisation responsible for all search and rescue operations. There are, however, in addition to our safety and emergency, several NGOs: the National Sea Rescue Institute1, Wilderness Search and Rescue Unit;2 Rescue South Africa;3 and K9 Search and Rescue.4

The South African Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue Act 20025 incorporates international conventions into our law, and it also established SASAR – the South African Search and Rescue Organization. This body effects rescue and evacuation relating to aircraft and maritime incidents. The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Transport.

  1. The Minister may, for purposes of any aeronautical or maritime search and rescue operation, requisition any civilian aircraft or vessel, or instruct any holder of a flight crew licence, of the master of a vessel, to assist in the operation. Any person who fails to give effect to such a requisition, or instruction, shall be guilty of an offence.6
  1. NSRI is situated at 1 Glengariff Road, Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town and can be contacted on 021 434 4011. See also

  2. WSAR is situated in the Western Cape (tel: 021 937 0300). See also

  3. Rescue South Africa is situated at ER24 Training Centre, Manor 2, Cambridge Manor Office Park, cnr Witkoppen and Stonehaven Rd, Paulshof, Sandton (tel: 082 459 9765). See also

  4. K9S&R can be contacted on 078 137 1073. See also

  5. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by General Notice published on 19 December 2014. 

  6. Section 13(1) read with section 13(3).