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Don't provoke soldiers‚ defence minister tells Cape Flats criminals

File photo of SANDF army parading in the streets of Mthatha. This image is used for illustration purposes only.
File photo of SANDF army parading in the streets of Mthatha. This image is used for illustration purposes only.

Defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has warned Cape Flats residents not to provoke the army when soldiers are eventually deployed to help the police.

“Soldiers are not trained for crime control. They only know three Bs: the boot‚ the barrel and the bullet‚” she said on Wednesday.

“I would pray because‚ sometimes criminals‚ when there is this kind of deployment‚ tend to provoke the soldiers. I really pray that there shouldn’t be that kind of situation‚” said the minister‚ before adding that whatever the army does on the ground would be within the parameters of what is allowed.

“We don’t expect that there will be excessive force used‚ but certainly when soldiers are provoked I think they tend to react in a particular way. I pray that people shouldn't do that‚” she added.

Police minister Bheki Cele announced in his budget vote speech last week that President Cyril Ramaphosa had approved the deployment of the army to some of Cape Town's townships‚ but soldiers are yet to hit the ground.

Addressing journalists before presenting her department's budget vote speech on Wednesday‚ Mapisa-Nqakula wouldn't divulge exactly when the deployment would take place.

She said it was always better to have an element of surprise when moving on an operation such as the one the government plans to initiate on the Cape Flats.

An army general and the police had suggested a robust operation in the beginning to stabilise the situation - hence it would need an element of surprise‚ she said.

“Now with the element of surprise‚ when I am going to surprise you with a birthday present‚ I don’t tell you that I am going to give you a birthday present … It has to have an element of surprise and hopefully this delay will give that effect finally‚" she said.

Mapisa-Nqakula also sought to allay concerns raised about how soldiers are not trained for policing. The ANC previously raised the same concern when it rejected calls by the DA for the army to be deployed.

Mapisa-Nqakula hoped that having members of the force on the ground could be a deterrent.

“It's time for the defence force to come in if we are to stabilise the country‚ among other things. As far as we are concerned‚ the kind of criminality which has been going on here‚ the fact that we are being ruled by gangs in the Western Cape‚ points to a fact that there is serious undermining of the authority of the state.

“If the state is challenged in the manner it's being done‚ we think it is appropriate that the commander in chief should deploy the SANDF to support the police‚” she added.

She expressed regret over the murder of 43 people this past weekend‚ saying that when the soldiers eventually move in‚ “they won't be kind to criminals".

She said it was also important to have an exit strategy before the army was deployed and to agree on what would inform that moment. This would be determined by the kind of intelligence received‚ she added.

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