The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be deployed in the Western Cape to assist police with enforcing Alert Level 3 lockdown regulations. One of their main focus areas will be the beaches along the garden route, which people are still visiting.

Dr Keith Cloete, the head of the provincial health department, explained that the details of the military deployment are still being hashed out.

The military will support the law enforcement efforts and the law enforcement agencies are working with the military about what exactly that deployment will look like, where and how it will happen,” he said to eNCA.

Cloete previously said that the province has entered the peak of the second wave of COVID-19 infections and was displaying early signs of stabilisation, however, we are not out of the woods.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, also revealed that SANDF was being deployed to help the police service, which has been heavily affected by the virus as more than 1000 officers are out of action, according to News24.

“We have quite a significant number infected here – about 350 of them, but besides you need to isolate even if you are not declared sick so we have a further 800 in isolation, so our numbers are very down,” said Cele.

Cele indicated that people were not complying with the current lockdown regulations and continued to visit the province’s 57 beaches. He visited the Garden Route on Wednesday morning [January 6] after receiving information that people were flouting the beach ban.

The Minister said that complaints of non-compliance continued after the declaration that beaches were off-limits: “I must say that in the West Coast we found that compliance is much better, with the exception of Langebaan, where people were still surfing and all that.”

“It’s unfortunate that we had to make some arrests there,” he said.

Beachgoers apparently only comply when there is a visible law enforcement presence and return when the beaches are empty, according to Cele.

“For that reason, today we expect to be reinforced by the South African National Defence Force to be here today to assist SA Police Service members to enforce the regulations that says people should not be on the beaches,” he said.

The Minister urged people to “just comply” because non-compliance could lead to a permanent criminal record and insisted that police are enforcing the regulations, not because they enjoy it but because it is their duty and “necessary and compulsory”.

This is not the first time that the army has been deployed within the country’s borders – earlier during the pandemic, nearly 3000 soldiers were put into action during South Africa’s initial three week lockdown in March 2020. The deployment was extended until September and the number of soldiers was increased to 20 000.

Prior to this, SANDF was called in to help the Western Cape quell gang-violence in the most afflicted areas of the Cape Town in July 2019.

Picture: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

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