The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has called on SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma, to tell Parliament the reasons for extending the military’s involvement in the Operation Fiela anti-crime tasking.
“In terms of section 201(3) of the Constitution he must do so promptly and in appropriate detail. Given that Parliament is in recess, section 201(4) of the Constitution prescribes the President should notify the appropriate oversight committee – that is, the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD),” shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said.
He will also contact the JSCD co-chairmen asking that committee members be given any notification received from the President without delay “to properly understand the grounds on which this extension is being made”.
Marais sees the continued deployment of soldiers inside the country to deal with what he calls “routine policing matters” as distressing.
“It has always been the DA’s contention that the military may be deployed domestically only in exceptional circumstances as an auxiliary to the SAPS consistent with the Constitution.
“Day-to-day crime-fighting does not constitute exceptional circumstances. Therefore the defence force presently has no legitimate purpose to be deployed within our borders; never mind the extension of such a service unless President Zuma can provide clarity to the contrary.
“Since the first explosions of crime and xenophobic violence erupted earlier this year, matters seem to have subsided which would ordinarily mean the SANDF needn’t continue in Operation Fiela and it will be for the SAPS to manage going forward.
“This extension of the SANDF’s involvement in Operation Fiela has the formative rumblings of a military state where the defence force is unleashed on the very people they are there to serve and protect,” Marais said.
The operation was initially launched to counter xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng but was subsequently extended to cover other criminal acts. To date, according to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, more than 9,000 arrests have been made as part of Operation Fiela.
In June Phumla Williams of GCIS said the operation was part of government’s overall strategy to ensure all South Africa are and feel safe.
“Operation Fiela is an initiative to rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities. The operation is a multi-disciplinary and interdepartmental one,” she said.
Days after he was reported as saying “the extension allows the army to assist the police in the coming months without the administrative hassle of going through the process for another deployment” Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications (HOC) Siphiwe Dlamini said in a statement “a request has been received and is being considered” after noting “various concerns about the extension of the deployment of the SANDF in Operation Fiela.”
“The SANDF will process the request through the normal employment channels which includes authorisation by the Commander-in-Chief and, if granted, submission of information to Parliament.”