SANDF deployment to have an element of surprise

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

While the President has given the go-ahead for boots on the ground to be deployed to areas in the Western Cape that are plagued by gangsterism and drug abuse, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says they will maintain the element of surprise.

President Ramaphosa, as the Commander-in-Chief, ordered the deployment of the SANDF in cooperation with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to combat crime and stabilise the situation in the province through intelligence-led operations.

“We equally have to agree on what will inform that moment. On our side, we are saying all operations are intelligence driven. It is always better when there is an element of surprise when you move in on an operation such as this one. One of the Generals, together with the police, were saying it would have to be robust in the beginning to stabilise the situation. It would have to have an element of surprise,” said the Minister.

She was briefing media on Wednesday ahead of the department’s budget vote in Parliament.

The Minister said the ongoing intelligence assessment will determine the right time for the withdrawal of the SANDF.

“The SANDF has been here now for more or less a week. The most important thing about the presence of the Defence Force here is that we all have to agree about the exit strategy. When you move into the area, how do you leave the area? How do you exit because the SANDF is not meant to be deployed internally,” she said.

During National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) operations in the areas of Philippi, Steenberg and Delft at the weekend, 143 suspects were arrested for crimes including murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH), aggravated robberies, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, and possession of drugs, among others.

Members also recovered drugs including tik, mandrax and cannabis; arms and ammunition and hi-jacked vehicles.

When the defence force is called upon to serve

Mapisa-Nqakula said, meanwhile, that while the Defence Force has been trained for operations outside the country’s borders, in recent times, it has been called upon to assist internally.

This includes when health professionals were called upon to stabilise the crisis at the provincial hospital in Mahikeng and when the army was asked to repair sewage infrastructure to contain raw sewage spilling into the Vaal River System.

Engineers were also deployed to assist the Ditsobotla Municipality in the North West with regards to a sewerage system failure; the army assisted in building bridges in rural areas where there was an absence of infrastructure; and they supported other institutions in firefighting and mountain and maritime search and rescue operations.

The Defence Force will continue to conduct search and rescue, disaster relief and humanitarian operations across the home-front and in neighbouring countries when called upon to do so, said Mapisa-Nqakula.

“Of particular note has been our recent response to the regional disaster caused by Cyclone IDAI as far afield as Mozambique and Malawi. Air assets and medical staff of the South African National Defence Force were deployed in a Disaster Relief Operation under Operation Chariot.”

Mapisa-Nqakula said the Department of Defence will continue to support the broader economic and developmental initiatives of the 6th administration.

Budget constraints

With regards to budget, the Minister said the department has been forced to continuously adjust its plans downwards in response to a declining budget.  

“The Defence Force is becoming progressively more unsustainable in terms of declining defence allocations. We have now reached the point where the Republic must decide on the kind of Defence Force it wants and what it can afford…

“I want to re-emphasise the resource allocation challenges faced by the Defence Force. A comparative analysis of our SADC partners indicates how under-funded the SANDF is. Regional defence budgets are increasing, while our defence budget is declining,” she said. –