Soldiers still mobilised to support police


The national defence force has again been pressed into service to support police in “preventing and combatting crime and preserving law and order” in South Africa.

“Correspondence,” a Parliament statement issued on Friday notes, was received from President Cyril Ramaphosa authorising 2 700 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel “for service in co-operation with the SA Police Service”.

The Presidential missive notes further the latest internal deployment was effective from 18 December and will end on 18 March.

This is yet another round of soldiers and police putting up a joint front to fight crime which started in 2019 when elements of the SA Army in the Western Care were used to support police in anti-crime operations on the Cape Flats. That deployment marked the first time the SANDF used the word “lockdown” as an operation name. The Western Cape deployment and subsequent ones saw soldiers providing perimeter protection to police engaged in search and seizure operations at fixed properties and roadblocks.

The latest involvement of soldiers – again under the standing Department of Defence (DoD) Operation Prosper tasking that provides for assistance to government departments at national and provincial level – has the added task of preserving law and order.

The “employment” of military personnel, according to the statement, will cost R233 296 240 and is authorised in terms of the Constitution and the Defence Act.

Recent Operation Prosper deployments saw soldiers patrolling in support of national state of disaster regulations – this was declared a separate operation and called Notlela (“lock up” in Sesotho). Following the  further utilisation of soldiers in the wake of last July’s widespread unrest and again to support police on keeping roads and infrastructure, including toll plazas, safe during year-end were all made known to Parliament, via Presidential missives to either the Presiding Officers (National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chair Amos Masondo) or the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD).

Ramaphosa’s deployment extension was communicated to the two senior Parliament officers in the wake of national key points coming under the proverbial fire with the Parliamentary precinct extensively damaged by fire and the Constitutional Court vandalised by a hammer wielding man.