The minister of defence and military veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said the delay in deploying the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to gang-ridden parts of Cape Town could end up benefiting the police’s Cape Flats stabilisation plan.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa had approved the deployment of military personnel to crime-ravaged parts of Cape Town.
This last weekend saw 43 people killed in the space of 48 hours in some of the city’s poorer suburbs. More than one thousand people have been murdered in the Mother City as of the beginning of the year.
Most of the deaths involved firearms.
Speaking at a media briefing ahead of tabling her department’s budget in Parliament, the minister said the delay in deployment could bring the element of surprise to criminals who have been anticipating the SANDF assisting the police in search and seizure operations.
The minister would not confirm the cause of the delay, but earlier this week a military spokesperson said this was because it was awaiting “paperwork.”
“It’s always better when there’s an element of surprise, like in an operation like this one. It will have to be robust in the beginning, to stabilise. It needs an element of surprise. And hopefully, this delay will give this effect,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
Mapisa-Nqakula hit back at criticism of the deployment saying the military was there to only assist police in conducting their duties.
“The SANDF is not trained to control crowds and policing. The moment you call in SANDF for the support it means they can play a role or serve as a deterrent. This kind of criminality points to their serious undermining of the authority of the state. If the state is being challenged we think it appropriates the commander-in-chief [Ramaphosa] deploy the SANDF,” the she said.
The 8th Infantry Battalion has been based in Cape Town since the weekend, where it was undergoing orientation and training at Ysterplaat Airforce base.
It is understood military intelligence is also part of the deployment to the city.
SANDF chief General Solly Shoke would not give details of training operations.
“We train for war. But it’s not the first time we’ve assisted the police. And there’s a specific role we play,” he said.
Earlier, SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi told the Mail & Guardian that military personnel were familiarising themselves with the situation on the ground.
“We’ve been busy with mission-ready training to make sure they understand the mission…What we are doing is not policing. If the police want to go to a certain area the SANDF will go with them. But the SANDF will not participate in a raid. They are there to provide protection
The defence minister said there’s no time frame for how long the SANDF will be in the Cape.
“All operations are intelligence-driven. Even the withdrawal will be determined by the kind of intelligence. We can’t say we deploy the defence for two days or for two years. It will be determined by the situation on the ground,” she said.