Escalating violence across South Africa, ranging from tavern shootings to alleged gang rapes as well as apparent extortion and torture and illegal road blockades has not gone unnoticed by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the form of the officer commanding the Infantry Formation of the SA Army.
In possible anticipation of a deployment order from the Union Buildings, Major General Patrick Dube has put elements of the formation on 25 hour standby. This, according to a warning instruction dated Saturday, 6 August, but not numbered, is “in anticipation of deploying in support or co-operation with the SAPS (SA Police Service)”.
The instruction is clear it is a warning to the named Infantry Formation units and regiments to “prepare and provide combat ready forces to support or co-operate with SAPS in quelling any form of unrest that may arise”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa as Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF is the only person who can order deployment, utilisation or – as the Presidency normally states it “employment” – of either the entire national defence force or selected elements.
Dube’s warning has it: “The situation in South Africa is gradually deteriorating into unrest due to criminality taking place within the borders. This is exacerbated by a perceived lack of action from security forces to combat criminality”.
The two-star notes further: “It is foreseen the SANDF might be called to play their secondary role and in this case, it will be to support or co-operate with SAPS. In this regard the SA Army Infantry Formation is ordered to go on 25-hour standby in anticipation of deploying in support or co-operation with the SAPS” (sic).
The warning names only 21 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion based at Doornkop, south of Johannesburg, and Andrew Mlangeni Regiment in the SA Army Reserve, headquartered in Johannesburg’s Kensington.
The warning has it 200 personnel are to be on 25 hour standby with 100 who have completed a “crowd control learning programme” at 21 SAI, just north of Soweto. A hundred Mamba drivers, for troop transport if and when activated, also forms part of Dube’s standby warning.
“Given this is an urgent matter” the standby warning specifically notes there will be no reconnaissance or other groupings with an advance team also not needed. The deployment, if and when it is ordered, will consist of a “main force” consisting of “crowd control members and Mamba drivers”.