With a R47m price tag, experts welcome deployment of SANDF at hotspots

President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the deployment of 10,000 military officials at various identified hotspots all over the country, but it will come at a cost of R47 million.

SANDF at Alexandra Plaza amidst threats of a national shutdown on 23 August 2021. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - The deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on election day has been widely welcomed as experts say police were under severe pressure to ensure there was no violence on the streets.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday authorised the deployment of 10,000 military officials at various identified hotspots all over the country, but it will come at a cost of R47 249 000.

More than 23,000 voting stations will be open from 8 am to 5 pm on Monday, including this weekend for officials who qualify for special votes.

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Ten thousand soldiers will be deployed across the country from Saturday until Wednesday to help the police to ensure no protests, violent attacks or any criminality keep residents from their voting stations.

Johan Burger is with the Institute for Security Studies, and he said the deployment of SANDF soldiers could be in response to the July violence where the military was deployed too late.

“This is a positive action by the president and the government given the sensitivity and fear amongst many that there may be another unrest outbreak of violence.”

In July, the police came under fire for not preventing the mass looting of shopping malls and businesses in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal while the army was deployed only days later.

Burger said the police were under enormous pressure this elections and the army's help must be seen as a positive move.

“Their own numbers are dwindling... Reality of elections is that there are more than 23,000 voting stations. It could be that they have intelligence information and there are over 300 hotspots identified by the security cluster - most are in Gauteng.”

At the same time, military expert and director at the African Defence Review Darren Olivier said although the estimated cost for the deployment of soldiers from Saturday was expensive, it could be cheaper if there was no violence.

“The SANDF has to cover the cost from its own operations and that there is no additional funding that comes from taxpayers.”

Olivier said it was an estimate of additional expenditure beyond normal daily usage.

“In most cases, the deployment costs less than the estimate, that is based on 10,000 troops being deployed but in practice, only a fraction will actually go out if things remain calm. So, the cost will be lower.”

During the last municipal elections in 2016, police escorted 220,000 IEC staff and material to over 22,500 voting districts.

This year, there will be more voting stations and more security forces on the ground.

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