Cape Town - The SANDF has informed Parliament that the assessment by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures has determined a probability of security threat during the local government election.
Briefing the joint standing committee on defence on the deployment of 10 000 soldiers, SANDF chief of joint operations Lieutenant-General Siphiwe Sangweni said a need was determined to involve the army to form part of the government’s effort to ensure a safe and secure environment for the holding of the elections.
“The SANDF capability is required to deploy in cooperation with the SAPS to provide the required support and assistance in line with the constitutional legislative framework,” Sangweni said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the deployment of 10 000 soldiers in all provinces from Saturday until Wednesday at a cost of R47.2 million.
A report Sangweni presented to the committee said the soldiers would protect the national key points and critical infrastructure.
The report said the SANDF would also provide a reaction capability on standby to react to eventualities as and when required.
It also stated that SANDF would also provide air transport support during the election as well as provide members to be trained as electoral officials.
According to the report, the primary focus of SANDF will also protect IEC voting material storage warehouses and be on standby to respond to situations beyond the control of the law enforcement agencies.
DA MP Kobus Marais noted the reduction in the budgeted amount on costs to be spent per soldier and warned against limiting their capabilities and resources.
Marais asked why only 10 000 soldiers were deployed over five days compared to longer days and bigger force in 2016.
He also enquired whether Sangweni could share information that there could be something to be expected.
“It seems there are underlying reasons, but it does not tell us directly,” Marais said.
In his response, Sangweni said SADF was constrained in terms of funding.
“We have applied ourselves to try as much as possible to contain cost where possible, and it is not necessarily based on expenditure. The intention is to save costs.”
He also said the reduction in soldiers was due to the concept and approach they have adopted this year.
“We have taken a different decision as NatJoints and justice, crime prevention and security cluster. It is preferable that the military not be on the streets, not be at voting stations, and go deal with critical objectives, primarily to relieve the SAPS, and the metro police to go out there and be at voting stations, and to do visible policing and other law enforcement requirements,” he said.
“It might be a different approach. Maybe in 2016, getting on the ground to create deterrence might have been the approach, but this time, we have taken a different approach.”
Political parties gave thumbs up for the deployment of the soldiers.
ANC MP and committee co-chairperson Elleck Nchabeleng said they supported SANDF to help in the election.
“I can only wish them well, and I am confident that they will make us proud. Go well, soldiers. We are behind you,” Nchabeleng said.
DA MP Dennis Ryder also welcomed the deployment, saying it was necessary to have a backup.
“We have seen this point of view backed up by various experts recently. We wish the defence well during deployment and implore them to exercise restraint in dealing with the public,” Ryder said.
Committee co-chairperson Cyril Xaba said the committee welcomed the deployment to provide manpower to the SAPS so that they were all on the ground once soldiers took care of the national key points and critical infrastructure and providing security to IEC warehouses.
“Lets hope it will not be necessary to release the entire force,” Xaba said.