File picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – Despite the announcement last Thursday by Police Minister Bheki Cele that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers would be deployed to the Cape Flats to assist the police, by late yesterday afternoon there were still no troops.

Speculation that military boots would be on the ground last night into this morning was heightened after SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobozi said he was hopeful that President Cyril Ramaphosa would sign the army’s deployment papers by the end of the day.

Mgobozi said: “Our soldiers are in Cape Town already. We are waiting for deployment papers. Once we get them, we will be able to deploy.

“We are hoping that it will happen by the end of today.”

The speculation was fuelled by the fact that Ramaphosa was appearing in Parliament for his presidential Budget vote debate.

Pieter Groenewald, Freedom Front Plus leader and the party’s chief spokesperson on defence, said: “Section 201 of the Constitution makes it clear that the President does have the power to sanction it, but that he must inform Parliament.”

However, at her pre-budget vote media briefing, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said: “It’s 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.”

Even though the troops haven’t started their duties, the minister spoke of an ongoing intelligence assessment to determine an exit strategy.

“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,” said the minister.

Albert Fritz, MEC of Community Safety, said: “The SANDF must be deployed immediately to stabilise our communities and allow police to pursue investigations and arrests. Gangsterism and crime are truly enemies to the Western Cape as they leave our citizens in a constant state of trauma.”

Western Cape Policing Forum board chairperson Fransina Lukas said: “There are many rumours about when they will be deployed, but all we can do is wait. Many people will feel safer once the army is patrolling.”

Sandile Martin, cluster chair of the Nyanga Community Policing Forum said: “The people were happy with the original announcement, but it is almost a week later and nothing has happened.”

Cape Argus