The deployment of the army in Cape Flats townships invokes the states of emergency of the 1980s. It’s a different time, a different war.
The deployment of the army to Cape Flats townships was delayed because the soldiers “were taken on an orientation process and finalizing of paperwork” according to the police ministry spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero. She added that “there are no concerns around the deployment, as the necessary steps have been taken into account,” in reference to problems with the army’s deployment in 2015.
During Operation Fiela in 2015, which was a response to xenophobic attacks, the army was deployed to assist the police and contribute to perimeter security. Lawyers for Human Rights raised the alarm that the deployment had gone ahead “without the required notice being given”. Section 19 (2) of the Defence Force Act 42 of 2002 requires it to be published in the Government Gazette.
According to Wayne Ncube from Lawyers for Human Rights, the matter was dismissed by the court on the basis that it was urgent for the government to deploy members of the army “and was moot as the operation was for a short period of time”.
Operation Fiela, under Fikile Mbalula, was marked by a spate of raids in different parts of the country by the police accompanied by the military, traffic cops and immigration officials. It came under severe criticism for targeting foreign nationals instead of controlling violence linked to xenophobia. The Right2Know campaign condemned the raids as “state sponsored xenophobia”.
The army would, according to Cele’s budget speech in Parliament, be deployed in the ten police precincts that have high murder rates. These are: “Bishop Lavis, Mitchells Plain, Delft, Elsies River, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Philippi, Kraaifontein and Manenberg. Combined, the ten stations contributed to 42% of attempted murders in the province.”
The army were seen on the ground in Manenberg and Hanover Park as of Thursday, 18 July. On a walkabout in Philippi East, Minister Bheki Cele told reporters that bringing in the army is a response to a demand from the Mitchells Plain Police Forum cluster and the Philippi East Community Police Forum.