Combatting and preventing crime are not part of the South African military’s skillset and the major reason why SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Chief General Solly Shoke says “we don’t do crime fighting”.
The country’s top soldier was responding to questions posed during a media briefing in Centurion this week. He said while soldiers may be called on to support other government departments and agencies as per the Constitution, the national defence force would prefer not to be become part of any crime fighting effort.
Reports have it a call last month by the Democratic Alliance (DA) for soldiers to be deployed on the Cape Flats was the 14th time in six years Western Cape provincial authorities and the ruling party in the province asked for military intervention to bring down crime levels. Soldiers have not been deployed in response to any of these calls.
Shoke said soldiers were not trained to combat crime or prevent it. “We are soldiers and military training is different to police training”.
“Crime is not in our domain and we try to avoid becoming involved in combating crime. I repeat what I said in November: when we come in, we ‘skop and donner’.”
SANDF elements, mainly SA Army but also SA Air Force (SAAF), have been made available to take part in the national anti-crime tasking Operation Fiela II which runs until year-end. To date neither soldiers nor airmen have been called on to assist police in the execution of their duties.
The first iteration of Operation Fiela in 2015 also saw the SANDF called on to support police. This was done by the provision of cordon and perimeter security to ensure safety of police taking part during search and seizure taskings. The first Fiela started as a pure anti-xenophobia tasking after killings of foreigners in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng escalated. It expanded to a national anti-crime tasking and its second iteration started at the beginning of this year.