Pretoria – The SANDF will be taking over the law enforcement and security duties on South Africa’s troubled highways which have lately been the scene of violent attacks on trucks, particularly ones driven by foreign nationals.
On Thursday, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise said the impact of the unrest was felt not only in South Africa, but also affected countries in the region.
“You may recall that just before the local government elections we said we have an interest, as the military, to look after strategic infrastructure. We have been in discussion since with the minister of police, and defence has agreed to take over just the toll roads and the toll gates specifically,” Modise addressed a briefing of government’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster in Pretoria.
“That decision was taken because we cannot afford a situation, as a country, where trucks block very strategic economic routes which not only affect South Africa but it affects the whole of SADC. With that in mind, we had already started looking at how we will deploy, to do that.”
She said “if there is any issue which might create any uncertainty to life and limb, property, the economic interests of the country the (Department of) Defence gets interested”.
She said in the wake of the high court ruling which ordered that former president Jacob Zuma return to jail to serve his 15-month sentence, the SANDF “will not hesitate” if approached to be on standby amid fears of a repeat of wide-scale riots witnessed in July when Zuma was incarcerated.
“We had not actually decided to be on standby simply because there is a court ruling. We were on standby to jump into the toll routes because we have been observing this trend of trucks that keep on hindering the free movement of innocent South Africans and affecting the standing of this country internationally,” said Modise.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has appealed for peace and calm across South Africa following the North Gauteng High Court ruling which ordered Zuma’s return to jail.
The court in Pretoria on Wednesday ordered that the outspoken former president return to court to serve the 15-month jail term which was imposed by the Constitutional Court in June for contempt.
Violence soon engulfed the provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with around 300 losing their lives in the widespread riots in July after Zuma began his jail term. Government has been beefing up security deployments, fearing another outburst of anger.
On Thursday, Lamola warned that criticising the judiciary would only inflame the situation.
“We call for calm and refrain from all South Africans after the court judgment with regards to the former president. It is important that we allow the due process of the law to take its course. The parties themselves are engaging on the matter and court processes,” said Lamola.
“Inflammatory statements and unwarranted attacks on the judiciary will not help the process. So let’s give the process space and time, and refrain from those inflammatory statements. Let us maintain calm as a country.”
He said “in this moment we need to be as calm as possible” and begged South Africans to allow the due processes of the law to unfold.
On Wednesday, the Department of Correctional Services and Zuma announced separately that they would be appealing the ruling of the North Gauteng High Court that nullified the medical parole of the former head of state.
After studying the judgment throughout Wednesday, the department said there were prospects of seeing a higher court ruling in its favour as some acts were "misrepresented" by the presiding judge.