Residents gather in front of a member of the South African National Defence Force in Hanover Park, Cape Town, in this July 18 2019 file photo. Picture: AFP/RODGER BOSCH
Residents gather in front of a member of the South African National Defence Force in Hanover Park, Cape Town, in this July 18 2019 file photo. Picture: AFP/RODGER BOSCH

The Western Cape provincial government has welcomed the decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to extend the deployment of the army in crime-infested parts of the province, but called for operational changes.

The presidency announced that the deployment of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), which was due to end on Monday, had been extended to the end of March 2020. The initial two-month deployment is expected to have cost just more than R23m.

In compliance with the constitution, Ramaphosa informed the speaker of the National Assembly and chair of the National Council of Provinces of the extended deployment of armed forces.

Ramaphosa authorised the original employment of the SANDF in July 2019 for a two-month period ending September 16,” the presidency said in a statement on Monday.

The SANDF is meant to assist the overwhelmed police force to fight crime especially in gang hot spots in the Cape Flats.

The government has previously acknowledged that the high level of violent crime in SA has had a negative effect on the economy and deterred tourism and foreign investment.

“If we want this deployment to be successful and truly make a difference in people’s lives, we need to make some operational changes and we all need to be working together.

After two months of SANDF presence in the Cape's ganglands, we go to Delft to find out what residents think of the army's presence and what should be done next. In a statement on September 16 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the employment of the SANDF until March 31 2020.

The province, City of Cape Town, national government, the SAPS, SANDF and the entire criminal justice chain have to commit to working together, otherwise we will not achieve stabilisation over the next six months,” provincial premier Alan Winde said.

On Monday, Winde said the provincial government had written to Ramaphosa to request the extension.

“In our letter to the president, we set out very clear conditions for an extension, because we believe that the effectiveness of the army needs to be maximised, and the outcomes of their deployment monitored. It is unclear at this stage whether the president, and the ministers of police and defence will be implementing the conditions we requested,” said Winde.

The conditions outlined by the provincial government included clear indicators of success. Measurement tools needed to be put in place to track the impact of the deployment.

The provincial government also proposed a blended strategy which allowed for a better combination of law enforcement, community mobilisation and availability of social service interventions to targeted groups.

Winde has undertaken to convene and chair a “safety cabinet” of stakeholders to co-ordinate the responses of the provincial government, City of Cape Town and the SAPS, National Prosecuting Authority and SANDF, among others.

Community safety MEC Albert Fritz said the success of the deployment remained hotly contested.

“While the number of murders remains relatively unchanged compared to prior to the deployment, the deployment has been successful in affecting arrests, particularly of wanted suspects. Between this past Thursday and Sunday, 395 arrests were made for persons in possession of drugs, illegal firearms and ammunition, and unlicensed liquor. Of the 395 arrested, 191 were wanted suspects,” Fritz said.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za