Soldiers won’t stem gang violence because South Africa’s army is in a sorry state

The initial response to the recent deployment of the South African army to
areas of Cape Town hit hard by gang violence evoked relief that peace and
stability would be But this has been replaced with a much more nuanced
view. Some community leaders claim the deployment has fallen well short
of . The “lock-down operation” needed to target and identify the culprits
behind the violence has not occurred.
Despite their limited mandate, the army has just too few soldiers to patrol
the ten suburbs that are home to. Less than 300 soldiers are on the streets
of the Cape Flats, not the 1320. This figure allows for rotation of troops.
Also, the soldiers will be there for less than three months, as the
deployment is authorised The result is that people in the affected areas are
fast realising that This echoes previous cases were soldiers were deployed
to but failed to have a measurable impact.
But, even if more soldiers are requested, the South African National
Defence Force simply doesn’t have the capacity to deploy them. This is
because it is severely overstretched in terms of both personnel and Of the
37 000 in the army, less than half serve in the 14 infantry battalions. One
battalion is tied up in peacekeeping operations and 15 companies are
deployed on the borders (far short of the 22 required). Some military
analysts claim that the army is 8.5 infantry battalions short (roughly 8500
The result is an escalation in personnel expenditure, the retention of people
who are no longer fit for their post profile due to age and health, a high
ratio of general officers to other ranks, and rank inflation making the armed
forces top heavy. Senior ranks are very expensive with extensive salary and
pension costs.

Added to this the military has been unable to reduce the number of people
in the full-time force through rationalisation and Another challenge is the
age profile. In 2003 the defence force introduced the military skills
development programme to rejuvenate the full-time and reserve forces. The
programme was to provide an adequate number of young, fit and healthy
personnel for the full time forces; and to serve as a feeder for the Reserve
Force. This has not happened due to financial restraints and lack of career
planning, leaving the reserves The consequence is an ageing force with
average troop age of 38 years and the Reserve Force age of .
Redesigning the defence force
The other factor affecting the capacity of the military is its force design. The
South African National Defence Force is structured, funded and trained for
its primary, Using the military continuously in internal secondary roles has
stretched it beyond capacity and contributed to its There is a clear
“disconnect between the defence mandate, government expectation and If
the government is serious about providing security for its citizens, it is
crucial to fix the structure and design of the force, which have eroded its
capacity to function optimally. Failure to do so will have dire implications
for the defence force’s ability to carry out its mandate – to protect the
country and its citizens as required by the Constitution.

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