Police Minister Bheki Cele on Thursday said he had presidential approval for the deployment of soldiers in the Western Cape following a spate of at least 13 murders in townships, mostly on the Cape Flats.
The former national police commissioner was speaking in the National Assembly during his budget vote on Thursday night. He told parliamentarians the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) would join “a large police contingent to be deployed to several policing precincts” naming Khayelitsha, Philippi, East Harare, Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Bishop Lavis, Delft, Elsies River and Nyanga.
He told a post-budget media briefing President Cyril Ramaphosa approved a request for soldiers to be deployed in the townships. This, according to ANA, was after he “sat down” with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The Directorate: Corporate Communications of the national defence force said in a statement issued on Friday a battalion with support elements would be deployed for a four month period, until October, when the situation would be re-assessed. The deployment forms part of the national tasking Operation Prosper, which provides for support to the SA Police Service. No indication is given of units or regiments that will make up the battalion.
Indications are the soldiers will in all probability be drawn from infantry units, both full-time and Reserve Force, in the Western Cape for ease of movement. They will probably be similarly tasked as soldiers deployed in earlier anti-crime taskings under the Operation Fiela banner. This operation has had two iterations to date and soldiers have provided perimeter security allowing police to go into dangerous and suspect areas knowing they have armed back-up.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde welcomed the deployment which Cele said was part of “extraordinary measures” in view of the number of murders.
“This is a clear admission the police have lost control of the war on crime, a fact denied by Cele a mere few days ago. Today (Thursday) we wrote to Minister Cele and police management requesting the use of extraordinary measures, in particular that they invoke Section 13(7) of the SAPS Act which allows for police to cordon off areas and conduct search and seizure operations for a period of 24 hours, without a warrant.
“The SANDF could provide support and assist with holding perimeters and cordons so police can get on with the work of investigating crime and arresting perpetrators,” he is reported as saying.
The deployment of the SANDF was welcomed by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). Andrew Whitfield, DA Shadow Minister of Police, said that for more than a decade, the DA and the people of the Western Cape have called on national government to deploy the army to gang-ridden communities in support of the SAPS.
“While the army’s deployment to assist the South African Police Services (SAPS) in stabilising the violence in gang-ridden communities is welcomed – this is only a temporary solution which must be led by the SAPS,” Whitfield said.
“The DA commends the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town, which despite their limited mandates, went above and beyond to keep the people of the Western Cape safe.”
Section 201 of the Constitution read with Sections 18 and 19 of the Defence Act provide strict procedures for the deployment of SANDF within the country’s borders.
Section 201 (2) of the Constitution states that “only the President, as head of the national executive, may authorise the employment of the defence force in co-operation with the police service”. Section 18 of the Defence Act states that in addition to the deployment of the army as per Section 201 of the Constitution, the President “may authorise the employment of the Defence Force for service inside the Republic”. Section 19 of the Act requires the Minister of Defence to give notice of the deployment by notice in the Government Gazette and that the President needs to inform Parliament.