SANDF deployment ensured safe and secure elections

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With South Africa’s national and provincial elections for a seventh democratic administration over and declared free and fair, the military component of NatJOINTS (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) – the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) – reports its activation in KwaZulu-Natal was “to render protection” to national key points(NKPs) and “look after government’s critical infrastructure”.

This, according to Captain Aneliswe Tamela of KwaZulu-Natal Joint Operations Headquarters, was in response to a request from SA Police Service (SAPS) KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi. The three-star is reported as saying: “We had submitted a request to our National Commissioner [General Fannie Masemola] that we need the SANDF to come and assist us because of the magnitude of the threat that the intelligence community had picked up on the ground”.

The activation of manpower and equipment was done in line with the standing Operation Prosper tasking, managed by the Joint Operations Division. It sees the military supporting other government entities, departments and services to ensure safety and security in the face of threats – either perceived by way of intelligence or actual, as in KwaZulu-Natal in 2021 when Jacob Zuma was briefly behind bars.

Tamela has it the east coast province faced a number of challenges in recent years including high crime levels, unrest and political violence. “Taxi blockades in Durban just before the elections were some warnings necessitating military support”.

SANDF elements were on standby to respond when situations went beyond police control.

The SA Air Force (SAAF), defenceWeb was informed, had a pair of Oryx medium transport helicopters along with three Agusta A109 and two BK117 light utility helicopters on standby for the pre-election period as well as on Election Day and subsequently. While not stated, the rotorcraft were all probably from 15 Squadron at Air Force Base (AFB) Durban and its Charlie Flight at the Gqeberha Air Force Station (AFS), still listed as Port Elizabeth on the SANDF/SAAF website.

Tamela has it the Oryx capability was crucial for rapid deployment of personnel in response to security threats. The Charlie Flight BK117s were detailed for night operations and the A109s, fitted with suitable technology, flew surveillance sorties “even in low light conditions”.

“In conclusion, the South African National Defence Force’s support for the South African Police Service in KwaZulu-Natal is a positive development that has helped to improve the security situation in the province,” Tamela said.

On 28 May, President Cyril Ramaphosa informed the National Assembly that 2 828 members of the SANDF were to be employed for service in cooperation with the SAPS for the prevention and combating of crime and for the maintenance and preservation of law and order during the elections.

The employment of the SANDF personnel applies from 20 May to 7 June 2024, at an estimated cost of R59 451 704.