That soldiers are going to be “roped in” to help police patrol Garden Route beaches is an admission of failure on the part of Police Minister Bheki Cele, a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian maintains.
The allegation by shadow police minister Andrew Whitfield follows Cele “visiting” beaches on the Cape west coast and the Garden Route this week. Whitfield said in a statement the Minister of Police “chooses to prioritise chasing down surfers on beaches and confronting sunbathers and joggers on promenades”.
News24 reports Cele “revealed” soldiers will assist police in “keeping bathers away” from the 57 Garden Route beaches currently off-limits as per national state of disaster regulations when he was in the area.
“We expect to be reinforced by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist SA Police Service (SAPS) members to enforce regulations that say people should not be on the beaches,” the digital news site reports the former national police commissioner as saying.
According to Whitfield “it is well-known South Africa suffers from an extremely high crime rate with rape, gender-based violence, murder, farm attacks and gang warfare all but out of control”.
“Under these circumstances it appears Minister Cele choose to prioritise chasing down surfers and confronting sunbathers and joggers,” he said, pointing out the DA “has for years requested the deployment of soldiers in areas of the Cape Flats”.
“These requests always fall on deaf ears. This is indicative of Minister Cele’s skewed priorities.
“Given SAPS has a budget close on double that of the SANDF and its personnel numbers exceed the 187 000 mark as opposed to the SANDF with around 75 000 soldiers, surely police have the resources to handle a few surfers on their own? Calling in the SANDF for this purpose is an admission of failure on the Minister’s part,” Whitfield said.
At the time of publication there was no indication via announcements or statements from the Presidency, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, the Department of Defence (DoD) or the national defence force on any Garden Route deployment.
Africa Defence Review director Darren Olivier said deployment of soldiers is “a bad idea. Soldiers aren’t trained or equipped for the sort of interactions that are going to inevitably result, so it puts them in impossible situations and will negatively affect civil-military relations and the public’s image of the military even if everything goes right.
“It’s time for a serious discussion about the circumstances under which it’s acceptable to deploy the SANDF in support of the SAPS, what sort of mandate is imposed on soldiers when that happens and what support they are given to succeed. The current approach is badly flawed.
“This has to be a robust national discussion with input from civil society, academia, the SAPS, SANDF and media. After all, we can’t leave it to political parties, as the ANC, DA, and EFF are all evidently in support of misusing the SANDF to fix failures in policing.”