Soldiers deployed in KZN

2015-04-22 00:00

THE South African National Defence Force will be deploying in KwaZulu-Natal soon, but exactly when and where is ­unknown, although it is expected that kwaMashu and Umlazi would be ­patrolled by soldiers.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said at a media briefing in the Gauteng township Alexandra, where she announced the deployment of the army to various xenophobic hot spots countrywide: “You would know that it really has been very bad in KwaZulu-Natal and we are dispatching troops to KZN, or they are probably there already.”

The decision to deploy troops was ­taken by the state security cluster, with President Jacob Zuma expected to tell Parliament of the deployment within the next seven days.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the SANDF would be deployed to any region the ­police believe to be volatile, including in Alexandra, where Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole was murdered at the weekend.

She said the state security cluster, which included her ministry, Home ­Affairs, as well as the Police ministry, would be “moving around to check what is happening”.

“We will also find time to go to KZN. We thought we could go this afternoon [yesterday], but unfortunately now the big boss would like to see us. So we’ll probably go there tomorrow [today] after the stakeholders’ meeting.

“But it is our responsibility to make sure that the entire country is okay.”

She said the mandate of the SANDF was not to protect the Police Service, but to support it.

“We are not here to take over the work of the police. We are coming in because there is a crisis. We are coming in because the police asked us to help.”

She said members of the police across the nine provinces were on alert “so that they aren’t caught off guard”.

“We are deploying because there is an emergency to do so.”

While there is scant information on where the army will be deployed in KZN, sources have revealed that the soldiers are likely to come from the Durban Light Infantry in Durban and 121 Battalion from Mtubatuba.

Military sources have said both had been put on standby during the xenophobic unrest last week.

121 Battalion, known as a tough unit, is often used for foreign peacekeeping missions.

The secrecy surrounding the deployment caught senior SAPS officers by surprise, with many completely unware of the development prior to the minister’s announcement.

One said that the army was just a ­“precautionary measure” to help the overwhelmed and tired Metro and SAPS units, while a senior intelligence source revealed that while Durban remained quiet at present, the likelihood of xenophobic violence within the city limits remained high.

Metro police and SAPS officers had been working around the clock for over two weeks, with leave and time off having been either postponed or cancelled.

Mapisa-Nqakula said the problem of violence against foreign nationals, which was rife in the country, would not be solved by the police, the army or the government, but by South Africans.

“It is a societal responsibility … Do not add fuel to the fire; stop it.”

DA defence spokesperson David Maynier said they “support the deployment of the SANDF in co-operation of the SAPS in exceptional circumstances”.

“With the potential for further xenophobic violence in more than one province, the deployment of the SANDF in co-operation with the SAPS seems warranted,” Maynier said.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

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