What is the end game – SANDF deployment
30 August 2019
It has been over a month since the most recent deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) into the gang-ridden Cape Flats of Cape Town. On the one hand, the City is one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations - and on the other, has one of the highest murder rates (over 60/100 000) in the world. The SANDF was deployed on 18 June 2019 for what has been wrongly cited by many sources as three months, when according to the President’s letter to Parliament, the deployment is to run from 18 July to 16 September 2019 - just under a two-month period. This gives the SANDF significantly less time to execute its mandate in the areas into which it was deployed. Contrary to the expectations of many members of the public and public officials who consistently called for the SANDF’s deployment, there has been little significant improvement to the lives of those affected.
The first weekend following the deployment was the only one whereby a marked decrease of murders (the most commonly-used measure of for the success of efforts to counteract violence) was recorded. 25 people died. Thereafter, the numbers quickly returned to the range in which they had been prior to deployment with 46, 41, 47 and 34 deaths having been recorded over the weekends that have followed. Again, this is only an indication of the number of murders. For a clearer picture of the state of the affected areas, a more holistic evaluation of criminal activity is required. The reality of the matter is that despite the presence of the soldiers, life in the Cape Flats has remained relatively unchanged, understandably casting doubt regarding the wisdom of deployment. Reports of only 300 troops having deployed versus the 1 320 that were promised, together with limited patrolling hours and absence during the hours when violence is most likely to occur, have contributed to the public’s scepticism.
On the one hand, the Minister of Police announced that upward of 1000 arrests of criminals have been made since the deployment. It is telling that in the same statement, the Minister alluded to the possibility of an extension of the deployment once the initial period comes to an end. On the other hand, Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde, has indicated frustration at the lack of information regarding the effectiveness of the deployment from SAPS.
Among the many questions that arise from the above is why the murder rate has continued to spike when there are so many arrests. Another question is why, if the deployment of the SANDF was well-advised and temporary in nature, there should be an extension thereof. Finally, why has no information been made public as to the effectiveness of the SANDF, as well as what the SAPS’s security plan is once the army withdraws.