The Joint Standing Committee on Defence considered the 26 October 2021 letter from the President informing Parliament of his decision to deploy 10 000 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to support the South African Police Services (SAPS) for the establishment of a safe and secure environment to conduct the 2021 Local Government Elections (LGE) under Operation PROSPER. The deployment is for five days from 30 October to 3 November 2021 at an estimated R47.2 million cost.
SANDF officials explained that National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) determined the probability of a security threat towards ensuring a safe and secure environment for the LGE. It was determined that to ensure a safe and secure elections, the SANDF would have to be involved. The SANDF will ensure the protection of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) material warehouse, critical infrastructure, national key points, provide additional transport services and act as a reactive force when necessary.
Committee members were pleased with the decision to deploy the SANDF and they requested that the soldiers exercise restraint when dealing with the public during the elections.
Mr V Xaba (ANC), Co-Chairperson, mentioned that the Committee had received another letter from the President, dated 15 October 2021, indicating that he has extended the deployment of SANDF members in Mozambique. He suggested that the Committee attend to the 15 October letter in the first week of November, at the start of the final parliamentary term of 2021.
Mr S Marais (DA) requested that the Chairperson allow for him to provide the Committee with a written response to the letter from the President.
Mr Xaba accepted his request and asked that he also send the response to the Department. He expressed his concern that the Committee will not be prepared to engage on the matter.
The Committee Secretary gave apologies on behalf of the Defence Minister and Deputy Minister who were in a meeting with the Auditor-General (AGSA) and would not be able to attend the meeting.
Mr Xaba noted their apologies but added that usually the Minister should present a letter from the President to the Committee.
SANDF Chief of Joint Operations, Lt Gen Siphiwe Sangweni, said that the Minister’s Office had informed the Committee Secretary that the Department planned to meet with the AGSA. However, the Minister had indicated that she would try to attend the meeting for a few minutes. He also extended an apology on behalf of the SANDF Chief for not attending the meeting.
Mr Xaba explained that the 26 October 2021 letter received from the President informs Parliament of his decision to deploy 10 000 (this is an upper limit figure and does not mean that all 10 000 soldiers will have to be deployed) SANDF members during the election from 30 October 2021 to 3 November 2021. SANDF members will be expected to work with SAPS in providing it with support. The SANDF deployment is estimated to cost R47.2 million. He reminded the Committee that this is the second instance where the president has authorised the deployment of the SANDF to work in support of SAPS during elections, as the former President deployed 2367 soldiers from 29 July to 10 August 2016 during the 2016 LGE, with a total expenditure of R38.2 million.
SANDF Concept of Operation for its deployment in cooperation with SAPS for LGE 2021
SANDF Chief of Joint Operations, Lt Gen Siphiwe Sangweni, explained that the NATJOINTS determined the probability of a security threat towards ensuring a safe and secure environment at the LGE. It was determined that to ensure safe and secure elections the SANDF would have to be involved. SANDF members are expected to do so through the protection of the IEC material warehouse, critical infrastructure, national key points and to provide additional transport services and act as a reactive force when necessary.
Mr Xaba thanked Lt Gen Sangweni for the presentation and said that it clearly explained the reasons for the deployment, which are, the protection of the IEC material warehouse, critical infrastructure, national key points, to provide additional transport services and to act as a reactive force when necessary. This assistance will enable SAPS to deploy its members for elections.
Mr Marais noted that in 2016 the SANDF was deployed for 13 days at the cost of R1035 per person per day compared to this recent authorisation, where a maximum of 10 000 SANDF members will be deployed for five days at a cost of R940 per person per day. Whilst it seemed that government was containing costs, he hoped that this would not limit SANDF in terms of resources and capabilities.
He asked why SANDF will be deployed only for five days. While he understood that 10 000 allocated soldiers is a maximum provision, he asked if there will be underlying issues about their deployment.
Lt Gen Sangweni replied that he was not aware of the rationale for the decisions taken by the former President in 2016. Referring to the cost comparison, he said that it is well-known that SANDF is constrained in funding, which has led to the deterioration of its capabilities. The SANDF has tried to contain costs as much as possible where it can.
Lt Gen Sangweni replied that the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) and the NATJOINTS took a decision that the military should not be on the streets and that it should only deal with critical objectives. This decision was taken to relieve SAPS from protecting key points so that it is able to conduct visible policing and other law enforcement duties.
Lt Gen Sangweni added that the SANDF is trying as much as possible for the military to act behind the scenes, so as to allow for elections to occur freely and fairly. In actual fact, SANDF hoped that the military would not have to be deployed, but due to SAPS being required to provide safety and security at voting stations – leaving key points vulnerable – soldiers had to be deployed. In addition, due to the July violent unrest, the SANDF had to put in place contingencies to prevent the unrest from re-occurring during the elections. It has had to plan ahead to ensure the safety and security of voters.
On why SANDF has been deployed for five days, he indicated that there might not be a need for SANDF members to be deployed during the elections. He expressed hope that the elections will be free and fair.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo), Co-Chairperson, said that the Committee supports the SANDF deployment to assist SAPS during the elections and he wished them well in their efforts.
Mr D Ryder (DA, Gauteng) welcomed the deployment of the SANDF by the President for the elections, particularly as it is a point of view supported by experts. He wished them well and implored them to exercise restraint when dealing with the public.
Mr Xaba agreed with the sentiments of the two previous speakers. He expressed hope that the elections will be peaceful.
He wished all political parties well during the elections.
Mr Marais said that it is important that the deployment was budgeted for instead of using unallocated funds, as this will benefit the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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