Africa & World

SA army deployed on the streets to handle ‘any internal disturbance’

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  • It's normal deployment this time of the year, says SANDF

ACCORDING to a leaked SA army document, foot soldiers have been instructed to make standby arrangements in all nine provinces as a measure to handle “any internal disturbance or eventuality that might occur”. 

The document which the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) refused to confirm “because it was not signed”  tasked the army to support the SA Police Services over the period of November 1 until March 31 next year in “stabilising internal disturbance in any of the provinces and thereafter await command to be deployed”.

The document was widely circulated on WhatsApp groups. SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi  would say that troops are put on standby during festive season as per “normal”.

“Every time in December, even when there is no Covid-19, we always have people on standby to help the police if we are needed. It is a normal thing…

“If there can be floods, we can be able to go and support people on floods. We always do it like that… All the provinces always have the standby situation. We cannot take a unit from Gauteng to go and react in KwaZulu-Natal or in Upington. It is the normal thing,” Mgobozi said.

When asked if he dismisses the document, Mgobozi said: “Your document is a document which is not an authorised document… If a document of the defence force is not signed, it is not a legit document. If that document was signed, I was going to be in a corner. That document is not signed. It is not a legit document of the defence force.”

There have been raised fears of a Covid-19 resurgence in some provinces including the Eastern Cape and warnings that the festive season could trigger a second wave if the surge in cases is not contained in hot spots.  Thousands of migrant workers have started trekking home in various provinces ahead of Christmas as is the norm.

According to SA Army Infantry Formation Instruction No 81/2020 the standby arrangement of soldiers would include each province preparing 170 members who will provide vehicle and foot patrol, cordon and sear, roadblocks, vehicle checkpoint and crowd management among other duties.

The head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, Professor Salim Abdool Kalim told the Sunday Times at the weekend that  if the resurgence in Nelson Mandela Bay is not contained immediately, the country risks spending January engulfed in a second wave.

Tourism Business Council of SA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said government cannot be blamed for enforcing law.

“People, instead of being at the restaurant [to eat] they are going there to mingle. They are becoming unruly. That needs to be dealt with. People must understand that we cannot close the economy anymore. But shutting down the sector is not an option. It will finish off what’s left of this sector,” Tshivhengwa said.

Wendy Alberts of the Restaurant Association of SA said the sector has been compliant to the regulations that have been set for it.

“We welcome the deployment for any compliance officer to be placed in the environment where there is clear evidence that there is infringement, the part of the hospitality industry that needs that. But not to target the restaurants that are compliant,” Alberts said.

She added that her observation has been that most of the non-compliance happens in public areas such as malls where people walk around without masks.

The transport sector also welcomed the idea of having soldiers helping police to monitor lockdown compliance.

Matlakala Motloung, Putco bus services marketing executive officer, said: “If we as a country are hit by a second wave then we will struggle to recover economically.

“As it is, we have experienced around 50% reduction in our passenger loads after level one because people lost their jobs, others are working from home and others are working on a rotational basis.”  

Theo Malele, the National Taxi Alliance’s spokesperson, said the redeployment of soldiers would bring a relief to the industry as people travel extensively between provinces during the festive season which could lead to a second wave.

“We are still recovering from the hard lockdown period and we expect a steady increase in business during the festive season. We would welcome the army provided they have a clear understanding of what they will be doing. We will also welcome them because they will help to ensure that our drivers and passengers are compliant,” Malele said. – Sowetan

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