In anticipation of military involvement in the ongoing Cape Flats crime prevention operation finishing at the end of March, the provincial government has and is taking further steps to minimise criminality.
The deployment of soldiers from 9 SA Infantry Battalion to support police was executed in terms of the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF’) Operation Prosper to provide assistance to other government departments. In this instance the assistance was to the Western Cape provincial government, the Cape Town metro and the SA Police Service (SAPS). The anti-crime operation has as its main target gang violence and was code named Operation Lockdown.
Soldiers were first deployed for a three month period, approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, also SANDF Commander-in-Chief, and extended for a further six months which will see the military withdraw at the end of March.
When the operation was three months into its stride Police Minister Bheki Cele said there was a drastic decline in the Western Cape murder rate, without giving statistics. Among successes specified then were 100 firearm and 565 knife seizures.
The Lockdown deployment cost the SANDF more than R35 million for its first three months, against a projected cost of R23 million. This promoted shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais of the Democratic Alliance (DA) to question the competency of those tasked with managing the Department of Defence (DoD) budget.
“The overspend shows initial budget and costings for the deployment being way out of line. No additional funds were appropriated and it has now become a situation of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ by ‘reprioritising’ the already stretched defence budget,” he said in December.
Neither the SANDF Joint Operations Division nor the SA Police Service was prepared to comment on any possible extension of the military deployment after its 31 March end. SAPS Brigadier Vish Naidoo said “it’s too soon to say at this point and time”.
Albert Fritz, Western Cape Community Safety Minister, told defenceWeb he “did not see the soldiers staying on after the end of March”.
“As a provincial government we are proactive about gang violence and crime generally on the Cape Flats. This includes establishing a provincial security cabinet which meets fortnightly,” he said adding there was expertise from provincial social welfare, education and security departments and agencies on it.
“The SANDF unfortunately decided not to be part of the security cabinet.”
One of its initiatives is training community security personnel with 500 currently undergoing training. They will be ready to deploy in April when soldiers withdraw from the Cape Flats. Fritz said plans were underway to train a further 500 community security guards to be deployed by mid-year.
Soldiers are deployed assisting police in the Delft, Mitchell’s Plain, Philippi, Manenberg, Elsies River, Bishop Lavis, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Kraaifontein areas of the Cape Flats.