The deployment of soldiers in the Western Cape has been welcomed by the Democratic Alliance (SA), the ruling party in that province, but it wants “full detail” of the joint military/police operation.
At the same time Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher in the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), points out it is important to understand the army cannot replace nor do the job of police. He is reported by News24 as saying soldiers are deployed to bring calm and stability to areas affected by high levels of crime and violence.
“The advantage of having the army in such an area is it creates space for police to concentrate on investigating prevailing crime and violence. When police have to protect the community there is little time for actual investigation.
“Due to their structure, weapons and vehicles, the army comes with a degree of authority, which brings calm and peace of mind to people in unstable environments. This makes the psychological advantages important,” the digital news site quotes him as saying.
Burger is certain the army is not the solution to the crime problem Western Cape. He maintains police shortcomings, unemployment, poverty and political factors all contribute.
“The army will be present for months at most and then things go back to normal. In this time police and other government departments have to sort out the real problems,” Burger said.
DA shadow police minister Andrew Whitfield at the weekend called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to make public full details of the army’s “planned involvement in stabilising Western Cape communities”.
His use of the word “planned” is apt as it appears Cele’s earlier statement regarding troop deployment was not entirely correct. Weekend reports have it deployment will start once troops making up the battalion have been briefed on mission readiness and involvement with local residents, among others.
They were originally reported as being deployed on Friday but the SANDF said soldiers will deploy when all the necessary paperwork and training has been completed. Troops from 8 South African Infantry Battalion in the Northern Cape arrived in Cape Town on Monday for mission readiness training.
The three-month deployment, according to a SA National Defence Force (SANDF) statement, forms part of Operation Prosper, which commits the national military to supporting the police when and if approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF.
Section 201 (2) of the Constitution states “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 in addition to deployment 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 in the Government Gazette and that the President needs to inform Parliament.
Calling for the military to intervene in the Western Cape, Cele pointed out during the 2018/2019 financial year, murders in the Western Cape increased by 6.3% from 3 729 to 3 963. The top 10 contributing murder stations in the province are Nyanga, Delft, Khayelitsha, Philippi East, Harare, Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain and Bishop Lavis.
“Combined, the 10 stations contributed to 47% of murders in the province,” Cele said.
Philippi East has featured as the top contributing station for murder from 1 to 7 July 2019, increasing from 1 to 13. In one incident on 5 July 2019, six females were fatally wounded in Marcus Garvey. On 6 July 2019, a further two shootings occurred, where five victims were fatally wounded and one injured.
This prompted Cele to request Ramaphosa to authorise the employment of the SANDF and SAPS in the prevention and combatting of crime and the maintenance and preservation of law and order.
“The President has since given the approval of the employment of the SANDF as requested by both Ministers. In the near future, JCPS cluster Ministers will announce the roll-out of the high level action plan. In this regard, we vouch Western Cape will never be same,” Cele said last Thursday.
The deployment of defence force members, jointly with SAPS, will focus on troops for cordon and search operations, strong points in hot spots, observation, foot and vehicle patrols.
They will also provide air support for trooping and identify substance manufacturing labs as well as any other operations that may be determined from time to time.
“The deployment of the SANDF is a massive relief for the people of our province who can now look forward to being safe in their own communities and homes,” Western Cape Minister of Community Safety Albert Fritz said last week.
Defence expert Helmoed Heitman told Cape Talk the deployment will not cost too much money as it will only involve transport and catering costs for the troops plus a deployment allowance. “We’re talking millions, not hundreds of millions,” he said.
Heitman cautioned the SANDF deployment was not a long term solution. “If you use the military correctly, in support of the police, then it can work. As long as we understand it is just an Elastoplast put over a problem to buy time. It doesn’t solve the problem. It allows time for the crime and intelligence units to investigate those responsible for the crimes in these areas and pull them out of the system. If they do not do that while the army is there, then it is a bit of a pointless exercise.”
Responding directly to the scourge of gangsterism, the Anti-Gang Unit will be elevated to a national unit under Operational Response Services (ORS) and other specialised units will be introduced, Cele announced.