The South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) has ordered some 200 soldiers to be on standby for deployment as “SA is gradually deteriorating into unrest due to criminality”.
The order, dated August 6 and issued by Maj-Gen Patrick Dube, general officer commanding the Army’s infantry formation, states that the soldiers are necessary “in anticipation of deploying in co-operation with the SAPS”.
“It is foreseen that the SANDF might be called to play their secondary role to go on 24-hour standby in anticipation” of further unrest.
The order follows a military command council meeting last week where generals were warned to be on high alert. According to military sources, the generals were warned that all units needed to maintain maximum security with immediate effect in light of the increasing incidents of violence.
Brig-Gen Andries Mahapa, spokesperson for the SANDF, told TimesLIVE on Sunday night the warning order is part of the army’s continued preparation for any eventuality.
“The warning order is part of our military drills whether it is for exercise or deployment.”
According to the order, the main infantry battalion for the preparation is 21 SA Infantry Battalion (21 SAI) based at Doornkop in Johannesburg. That unit has to prepare for an additional 200 soldiers’ accommodation and meals, while 100 Mamba light armoured vehicle drivers also need to be placed on standby at the same base.
Military sources say the order means an additional company of soldiers (150 troops plus support personnel) to support police is now being prepared. One company of soldiers is always on standby in every province for possible deployment in an emergency. This order is for an additional company to be ready.
Doornkop is the most central of the other infantry battalions in light of the past few weeks’ unrest in Gauteng and its neighbouring provinces. 21 SAI also has the most serviceable Mambas available. The Mamba, a light armoured personnel vehicle, is the best suitable of the army’s vehicles for combating urban unrest.
“Placing 200 soldiers on standby means that they will be ready to move in to quell any eventuality,” a former general said. “Even though 100 Mamba drivers seem a lot, it means there will be sufficient drivers should more troops be mobilised. While the first company would move first, it provides a buffer while more troops can be deployed should the situation demand it.”
He concurs with Mahapa that the order does not mean the army is mobilising for a full-scale conflict, but rather that it is better prepared than it was last year when violence in KwaZulu-Natal spiralled out of control.
“I have no doubt that there is probably sufficient intelligence to have necessitated the SANDF to be prepared for escalating trouble,” the former general said.
21 SAI had to be finished with its preparation by Saturday, while a final name list of the command group had to have been supplied by Sunday.
Included in the company are some 100 soldiers who completed a crowd control programme last week. This group will also be equipped with crowd control equipment “and must be combat-ready to support and co-operate with SAPS in quelling unrest”, the order states.
The company will be available from Monday for any eventuality.
The former general, who also served in the infantry formation, explained that it does not mean the soldiers will automatically be deployed.
“They may still only be deployed once ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has to inform parliament about the deployment first. This also only happens should the police request the army to assist when a situation of violence spirals out of control.”
Gauteng’s West Rand has experienced a flare-up of protests over the past days, sparked by the mass rape of a group of women in Krugersdorp by suspected illegal miners.