Nine companies of soldiers will be on standby across South Africa come voting day on May 7 to ensure, along with police and other government entities, that election day runs smoothly.
Arrangements are also in place for military personnel deployed on continental operations to vote, albeit only in the national election. This is because electoral legislation specifies voters have to be in a particular province on voting day to cast their ballots in provincial elections.
Joint Operations spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton said 60 plus SANDF members have undergone rigorous Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) training and will leave South Africa on Saturday for the DRC, Mozambique and Sudan.
“All SANDF members deployed in these three countries will be able to cast special votes ahead of May 7 and sealed ballot boxes will be flown back to South Africa on May 5 in time to be counted with other special votes.”
SAS Spioenkop, currently on Operation Copper duty in the Mozambican Channel will port in Pemba so the ship’s company can vote.
In DRC and Sudan, the soldiers tasked with overseeing voting will at times find themselves on the front line as they move in to allow soldiers to cast their ballots, literally from the trenches, Paxton said.
Internal voting day plans have the SANDF deployed in support of the SA Police Service with a company on standby in each of the country’s nine provinces.
The SA Air Force (SAAF) is the people mover, if needed, with seven helicopters ready to move troops as and when needed. If the requirement is larger than can be handled by helicopters and wheeled vehicles one of 28 Squadron’s C-130BZs is the national standby support aircraft.
Only Northern Cape (to be serviced by a rotorcraft from AFB Bloemspruit) and North West, with a 17 Squadron Oryx on duty to sortie over both Gauteng and that province, do not have “own” aircraft available for voting day.
A BK-117 from 15 Squadron’s Charlie flight at AFB Port Elizabeth will do voting day duty in Eastern Cape with five Oryx’s from squadrons in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Western Cape standing ready to assist if needed in whatever capacity.
The defence force will on Monday activate joint tactical headquarters in all nine provinces. These will tie in with provincial Joint Operations Commands the following week to ensure a smooth reporting line to and from the NatJoints, sitting at Joint Operations headquarters, south-west of Pretoria.
“In all cases it must be remembered the SANDF deployment is in support of agencies and departments, such as the SAPS, IEC and the Department of Home Affairs,” Paxton said adding another 50 soldiers had undergone IEC training and would serve as plainclothes support to IEC staff at voting stations on May 7.
“Internally, the SANDF is as ready as it can be to assist with a free and fair election. Externally, we as a defence force are proud of the arrangements made to allow our soldiers to vote, even if they are serving in harm’s way.”