Minister of Safety & Security Nathi Mthetwa says the police “are not taking chances” with political violence before, during or after next months national and provincial elections.
There have been a series of incidents, including murder, assault and vandalism, linked to the elections in recent weeks and some commentators are describing the vote as potentially the most violent since the country`s watershed all-race elections in 1994.
Police deputy national commissioner André Pruis says “we`ve divided voting stations into low medium and high risk and determined the number of [police] to deploy to each.
“We will have reaction forces in place and so forth and eventually in the post election phase deal with any eventuality; that is the counting process, we will secure material, wherever the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) would like us to escort it.
The Security services have also been tasked with ensuring election campaigns and rallies are free of violence. “In many instances where we`ve had two meetings at the same date, we have secured them effectively with support of various role players such as leaders of the parties. So we evaluate the situation and determine the force levels to be deployed and I think we have been very successful up to now,” Pruis said.
The commissioner adds special teams are on hand in every province to investigate election-related crime. The SABC reports these are working closely with IEC conflict resolution mechanisms.
The South African National Defence Force is also on standby to assist police if necessary. SANDF Chief of Joint Operations Lt General Themba Matanzima says the military has “two battalions that are ready to do their job in support of the SAPS, we also have helicopters that will help the operations.”
Last month his chief director of operations, Rear Admiral Philip Schoultz said the SANDF is always on standby for any major national event “on request for the department concerned.”
“It is in this regard that the IEC can also request support from the DoD because logistically they may not be able to deliver certain things and would want the SANDF to assist [as with helicopters to transport ballot papers in the past]. In the main, the SANDF would be assisting in particular the police,” the admiral said.
“We have no instruction to deploy specific forces to a specific place at this stage. However, preparations started last year already when we secured a presidential minute which authorises us to assist both with securing the elections and combating crime through to 19 July.
We have the political and governmental mandate to be called up wherever we have to.
At the same briefing the SANDF`s General Officer Commanding the Joint Operational Headquarters, Major General Barney Hlatshwayo, provided a rundown of the forces available:
Ø 1 x Infantry company – 7 day standby – Western Cape.
Ø 1 x Infantry battalion – 72 hour standby – Gauteng.
Ø 1 x Infantry company – 7 day standby – KwaZulu-Natal.
Ø 4 x Medium Transport Helicopters (Denel M1 Oryx) with 100 flying hours.
Ø 4 x Light Utility Helicopters (AgustaWestland A109LUH) with 100 flying hours.
Ø 2 x Maritime Patrol Aircraft (Douglas C47TP) with 120 flying hours.
Ø 2 x offshore patrol vessels.
Ø 12 x Operational Emergency Care orderlies.
Ø 3 x Specialist Reaction Teams (Special Forces)
Schoultz adds that as “the intelligence changes we will bring that standby time down, but essentially we have forces across all provinces. We have moved vehicles to all provinces already, they are at the tactical headquarters, we have troops and in fact we have put rations down as well.
“The SANDF is ready to support, it all depends on how the security situation changes and whether we are called on through the joint structures to provide assistance,” Schoultz adds.