SANDF Cape Flats

Photo: Luke Daniel –

What the law says: Why SANDF’s arrival in the Cape Flats has been delayed

Desperate times have called for desperate measures. SANDF soldiers have been drafted in to fight crime in the Cape Flats. But their mission has been postponed.

SANDF Cape Flats

Photo: Luke Daniel –

The debate rages on into the weekend: Emergency intervention into the gang-blighted regions of the Cape Flats is set to go ahead, and it has culminated with the government sending SANDF in to control the rampant rates of crime and murder in the poverty-stricken communities.

Why is the army policing the Western Cape?

On one side of the fence, people are concerned. Soldiers aren’t trained to police. The militarization of the police force isn’t exactly something to brag about, and if anything, it only serves to further highlight the failures of policing in South Africa. SAPS are understaffed, and there’s next-to-no money in the kitty to help fight the tide of gangsterism.

The Western Cape’s anti-gang unit cannot take this task on by themselves, such is the magnitude of the problem. These are the most desperate of times, and they have lead to desperate measures. The semantics of right and wrong can arguably put on hold if an army presence is able to do enough to save lives and deter criminals.

Where will SANDF serve in the Cape Flats?

  • Khayelitsha
  • Philippi East
  • Harare
  • Gugulethu
  • Mfuleni
  • Kraaifontein
  • Mitchells Plain
  • Bishop Lavis
  • Delft
  • Elsies River
  • Nyanga

A mind-boggling 13 lives were lost in one community last weekend. The killings in Philippi East proved to be the final straw for law enforcement and following a visit from Bheki Cele, the Ministry of Police made a decision. One very much welcomed by the DA, and Western Cape Premier Alan Winde:

A false start

However, in a darkly ironic fashion, “Operation Prosper” has already got off to a false start. The first round of soldiers were expected to show up on Friday. But they were prevented from doing so, thanks to a bit of red tape.

Siphiwe Dlamini is the head of communications for SANDF. He told the media on Friday that the delay is due to “administrative issues”, revealing that not all the necessary paperwork had been completed. The army issued a statement earlier in the day, explaining that they can only start their duties once they’ve gained presidential approval:

“According to Chapter 11 (Sec. 201) (2.) of the Constitution of the country, it is stated that, only the president, as head of the national executive, may authorise the employment of the defence force in co-operation with the police service, in defence of the Republic or in fulfilment of an international obligation.”

SANDF statement

SANDF in the Cape Flats: What happens now?

It’s not thought that Cyril Ramaphosa is opposed to the move, nor is he having second thoughts. It’s just a very rigorous process, and without the correct seal of approval, soldiers are bound by law to stand down.

SANDF have confirmed they will be operating in the Cape Flats from July through to October. No official word has been given on when they will actually begin their policing duties, but the first few soldiers began arriving by bus to the region on Friday night.