South Africa 20.7.2018 07:00 am

DA’s idea to deploy army in crime hot spots could backfire

Picture: Twitter.

Picture: Twitter.

Police Minister Bheki Cele almost immediately dismissed DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s calls, saying the army isn’t trained to deal with civilians.

The DA’s call for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to be deployed in the Western Cape “seems quite populist” and could do more harm than good, according to an expert.

The DA marched from the Manenberg police station to the Nyanga station yesterday, calling for the army to be deployed to crime-ridden communities on the Cape Flats.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane accused government of failing crime-stricken communities, and implored President Cyril Ramaphosa to use his constitutional powers to deploy the military, saying “… The people of Philippi, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Mannenberg, Nyanga and many other neighbourhoods are suffering particularly badly”.

“Your government has a duty to protect you from crime and criminals. It says so in our constitution. Your right to freedom and security is one of the very first things mentioned in the Bill of Rights.”

Maimane claimed the people of the Western Cape were getting the short end of the stick, while pointing out the fact that residents of Nyanga have to make do with only one police officer for every 628 residents, while the national average is one officer to 369 people.

He accused the ANC of having “politicised crime”, saying “the ANC has decided to use your safety and your lives as political pawns. They are punishing you for the choices of the people of Cape Town and the Western Cape”.

In contrast to his predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, who promised that the military would be deployed on Cape Town’s streets by Christmas last year, Police Minister Bheki Cele almost immediately dismissed Maimane’s calls.

It was also Cele who shelved Mbalula’s plans for this earlier this year, when he was reappointed as police commissioner.

At a briefing yesterday, Cele said the army was not trained to deal with civilians, and that the Western Cape’s crime statistics had not reached a point that necessitated the deployment of the army.

Lizette Lancaster from the Institute for Security Studies’ Crime and Justice information hub echoed Cele’s statements.

“Bringing in the military is a very troubling concept,” she told The Citizen yesterday. “The military are not trained to work with civilians, and you don’t want soldiers deployed in these areas with assault rifles. That could potentially do more harm than good.”

Lancaster said the DA’s calls seemed “quite populist” as there were several alternatives which needed to be explored first. – news@citizen.co.za

Attorney’s word of caution

According to attorney Ulrich Roux, there are some very specific requirements which have to be met before the military can be deployed within the country’s borders.

“Section 19 of the Defence Act provides for strict requirements of deploying the military,” he said.

“Section 19(2) requires the minister of defence to give notice of the deployment by notice in the Government Gazette within 24 hours of the commencement of the deployment. This is an additional requirement to the notice the president needs to give to parliament. Section 19(3) then sets out strict procedures and criteria that must be met for such a deployment, stating that: Service in cooperation with the South African Police Service: (a) may only be performed in such area or at such place as the president may order at the request of the minister and the minister of safety and security; … (c) must be performed in accordance with: (i) a code of conduct and operational procedures approved by the minister; (ii) such guidelines regarding: (aa) cooperation between the defence force and the South African Police Service; and (bb) coordination of command over and control of members of the defence force and the South African Police Service, as the chief of the defence force and the national commissioner of the South African Police Service may determine.”

Roux believes “it would be more economically beneficial for South Africa as country to improve the South African Police Service than deploy the army.

“In deploying, this will only assist in the short-term problem, whereas ensuring the police service is properly funded and maintained will benefit the community at large in the long term. It should also be cautioned from establishing something that seems like a military regime.”

Citizen reporter

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