SANDF stressed

5237

The logistical stresses that increased with the participation of the Army in internal law enforcement duties, was emphasised by SA National Defense Force chief general Godfrey Ngwenya during a press briefing last week. 

Ngwenya and his immediate superior defense minister Lindiwe Sisulu were answering a barrage of questions surrounding the SANDF and its role in border security and an idea mooted by police minister Nathi Mthethwa to use soldiers to protect cash in transit vans. 

“There have been discussions around those issues, but we have not been formerly asked by cabinet to prepare for such duties,” Ngwenya said. “We have to also see how these duties will impact our other duties such as peacekeeping.” 

Ngwenya went on to say that at one stage the Army had 12 companies (between 1500 and 2400 troops) deployed on border duties. Since 2005 the SANDF had been turning over this role to the SA Police Service in stages. So far the SAPS have said that they have deployed 522 policemen to border duties.

“We first handed over the Namibian and then Botswana borders and then Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique borders,” he said. “We are still on the border with Zimbabwe and that is, because you know what is happening there.” 

Sisulu stated that the deference force would need a proclamation from Cabinet before assuming such duties such as cash in transit protection and border patrols.  

She said that the possible deployment of troops on the border would be for areas where the police do not patrol regularly and that the SAPS and Department of home Affairs would continue to be responsible for handling such legal issues such as immigration. 

No pirate patrols 

At the same press briefing, it emerged that the SA Cabinet had not asked the SANDF to participate in anti-piracy operations off the Somalian coast either independently or with one of the other international task groups already there. 

Ngwenya said that no cabinet request had come to the defense staff requesting either an appreciation of whether this was possible or to direct that such patrols happen. He also hinted that such a deployment would be logistically challenging and expensive. 

SA Navy chief Johannes Mudimu said the situation off the Somali coast was complicated by the fact there were several international task forces deployed there all with different, but overlapping mandates. 

“There is Task Force 180, which is led by the US and is part of their war against terror. Then there is Task Force 150, which is Nato led, and is escorting ships carrying humanitarian aid, and then there are the Chinese, the Indians, Malaysians all doing different things. The situation is very complicated,” he said.