Calls for number of soldiers deployed on anti-xenophobia ops to be made public


The outbreak of xenophobic attacks which has seen the military mobilised as part of government’s an all-out attempt to normalise the situation has reached as far as United Nations headquarters in New York.

In another development around the second bout of xenophobia to hit South Africa since 2008, the FF+ wants to know why the Defence Minister won’t disclose how many troops have been called in to assist police.

Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the world body, condemned the violence which has claimed at least seven lives to date. He also noted the “actions and statements” of President Jacob Zuma to address the violence and welcomed public expressions calling for peaceful co-existence and harmony with foreign nationals.

The FF+ defence and police spokesman Pieter Groenewald maintains Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was wrong to say she could not disclose the number of soldiers deployed for “operational reasons” earlier this week. Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, director: corporate communications for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is also reported by various media has having said the number of soldiers deployed to assist police in anti-xenophobic operations is an operational matter and cannot be made public.

According to the South African Constitution only the President can authorise the employment of the defence force internally in co-operation with the police service. Additionally he has to “promptly and in appropriate detail” inform Parliament of the reasons for the deployment; where the defence force is being employed; the number of people involved and for how long.

Groenewald maintains the deployment of soldiers inside South African borders is “a serious intervention and points to a reasonable risk of instability”.
“The FF Plus does not object to the defence force being deployed with the police in this instance, but government will have to seriously reflect on the issue to ensure security services such as the police and intelligence agencies do their work thoroughly to prevent any instability from becoming so bad that the SANDF has to be used,” he said.

The country’s largest military trade union, Sandu (SA National Defence Union), said it has no objection to the deployment of soldiers, wherever required, as long as it is done within the prescripts of the Defence Act and the Constitution.