Hundreds of SANDF soldiers on truck torching prevention duty

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Over 800 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel are on active duty in the wake of a truck torching bout that started on 9 July.

The deployment is in terms of the ongoing Operation Prosper which, according to the Joint Operations Division of the SANDF, provides for military support to internal safety and security operations. In this instance, if previous deployments are any yardstick, soldiers will be responsible for guarding duties at potential flashpoints such as bridges over highways and providing perimeter security for police actions and operations.

The latest utilisation of military force in South Africa was made public by Department of Defence (DoD) Head of Communication (HOC) Siphiwe Dlamini in a single paragraph statement a week ago today. No details on personnel numbers or deployment length were given.

This was clarified by SANDF Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) in response to a defenceWeb inquiry. It has it the deployment of “over 800 personnel” are “approved for four weeks in six provinces” as opposed to four named in the Dlamini statement. DCC has it defence personnel are in Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West until 11 August, if the stated deployment period is not extended.

Soldiers are reportedly at high risk areas including toll gates at Mooi River and Marianhill on the major road link between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal port city, Durban.

The recent truck torching of around two dozen trucks is attributed to a combination of factors, including the involvement of a truckers’ organisation sympathetic to former president Jacob Zuma and the xenophobic group Operation Dudula. South African truck drivers are unhappy about companies employing foreign drivers and this is a source of contention.

Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the burnings to date, although the masterminds behind the arson operations are still at large with12 people of interest identified according to police minister Bheki Cele.