The difference between “deployment” and “employment” of soldiers is an operational issue left to commanders on the ground is how defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula explained personnel numbers allocated to the current Cape Flats crime prevention operation.
Authorising the deployment, SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa, gave a number of 1 320 soldiers sent to the Western Cape. Following an oversight visit and briefings by senior national defence force and police officers, a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP maintains “it doesn’t add up”.
Shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais was part of a recent Portfolio Committee on Defence oversight visit to the Cape Flats. In addition to seeing patrol, roadblocks and other operational actions, the parliamentarians heard from, among others, Colonel Keith Aarons of Joint Tactical HQ, Western Cape.
Ahead of the visit Marais put a written question to Minister Mapisa-Nqakula. He asked how an authorised deployment of more than one thousand three hundreds soldiers turned into a two company – around 400 – boots on the ground operation.
In her response the Minister indicated “for operational reasons commanders can utilise the number of soldiers required at any given time during the operation”.
As not all 1 320 soldiers can be working round the clock, due to rotations only a third of the number deployed is available at any given time.
“There seems to be a different instruction to the lower execution levels vs that of the President and Minister,” was Marais’ response to the Ministerial explanation.
“They are able to deploy at least twice as many soldiers based on the President’s approval letter. This lack of utilisation will contribute to the perceived failure by the SANDF to make a substantial difference.
“Clearly the left hand does not know what the right hand intends and actually does,” he said adding there appears to be a lack of both political leadership and will.
The DA MP’s questions also brought to light Operation Lockdown is going to cost the SANDF R23 million with him being told by the Minister the money will go to operational support and allowances via reprioritisation of existing national defence budget allocations.
There is, at present, no indication of whether the military component of Operation Lockdown will be extended past its September expiry.
Speaking at a SANDF Women’s Month parade in Thaba Tshwane, Mapisa-Nqakula said the order to extend the deployment “will come from the Commander-in-Chief (Ramaphosa) after being advised by those who have the authority”.