/ 28 April 2024

Security cluster will leave ‘nothing to chance’ in upcoming general elections

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Defence Minister Thandi Modise. (Photo by Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With only 30 days left until South Africans head to the polls, the government has put measures in place to protect all public facilities, national key points and other essential infrastructure that criminal elements might target.

This is according to Defence Minister Thandi Modise, who was addressing a briefing held by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster, to outline its state of readiness for the upcoming general elections on 29 May.

Anyone found guilty of damaging essential infrastructure could be sentenced to up to 30 years if found guilty, she said. “As the government, we want to issue a stern warning to anyone with intentions to disrupt the elections that the law enforcement officers will deal with them decisively and will put them behind bars.”

No one has a right to intimidate and prevent others from exercising their constitutional right to vote for a party of their choice. “We want to assure the public of the readiness of the JCPS cluster to execute its mandate of protecting the public, our country’s strategic installations and infrastructure during the election period. We will do everything in our power to protect all those who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Modise said that the general elections are believed to be the most contested in the country’s history. Overall, 70 political parties are contesting the elections, 11 independent candidates, and the national contestants are 52. In total, there are over 14 903 candidates vying for 887 seats in the national and provincial legislatures.

“Ensuring the safety and security of all voters and officials is of paramount importance”, she said.

The approach of the JCPS cluster is to ensure coordinated and intelligence-led planning and operations before, during, and after the elections, where multi-departmental teams work together to ensure that all South Africans exercise their constitutional rights without fear of intimidation or violence, she said.

This coordination is managed by National and Provincial Joints (Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) structures of the JCPS cluster and the Independent Electoral Commission, Modise said, adding that inter-departmental priority committees were established last year at both the national and provincial levels for safety and security planning.

“Our law enforcement agencies have led in developing the national security plan, which has been approved by the ministers of the JCPS cluster. Natjoints [National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure] has done a thorough threat and crime pattern analysis to inform the development of a security plan and they want to ensure that nothing is left to chance.”

Modise said that based on the threat and crime pattern analysis, Natjoints had recommended a fit-for-purpose deployment plan that will deal with any potential threats of crime and violence in and around voting stations and national and provincial results centres.

“We have also put measures in place to protect all public facilities that will be used for voting, national key points and other essential infrastructure that might be targeted by criminal elements.”

The Criminal Matters Amendment Act states that any person who tampers with or damages essential infrastructure is guilty of a criminal offence and he/she can be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years if found guilty.

“The South African Police Service (SAPS) Ministry and SAPS management have conducted several oversite roadshows in all provinces where they met with the station commanders of all police stations and district commissioners to assess the SAPS state of readiness and preparedness to ensure safety and security. 

The management of SAPS and the Ministry are satisfied with the level of readiness of all the provinces and districts to provide policing services before, during and after the elections, she said.

The elections will be policed within the relevant prescripts and laws and police officers will enforce the law accordingly. Modise added that the security plan would be constantly reviewed as the situation changes and said they will adapt as required. 

“As the JCPS cluster leadership, we want to send a clear message to the public that no incitement to violence, lawlessness, destruction of infrastructure, or barricading of roads will be tolerated,” the minister said, warning that anyone who takes part in any form of criminal activity will be dealt with.

Political rights for citizens are guaranteed and Modise said that the JCPS will ensure that all the rights enshrined in the constitution are not violated. Among these rights are the rights to freedom, security, and protection from all forms of violence from either public or private sources.

“Although the constitution allows all citizens to participate in protests, pickets and present petitions, those who participate in these activities must do so peacefully and not violate the rights of those who do not want to participate,” the minister added.

Anyone found to be in contravention of these important provisions of the constitution during this critical time will be met with the full authority of the state, she said.