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‘Rapid response unit’ to be set up by military to deal with public violence

11 November 2021 - 15:16
The SANDF on patrol in Durban during looting across the city in July. File photo.
The SANDF on patrol in Durban during looting across the city in July. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

The department of defence will set up a rapid response unit to deal with the levels of public violence seen during the July looting and rioting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This was revealed in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement tabled in parliament on Thursday by finance minister Enoch Godongwana.

“Earlier this year, public violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng illustrated the need for improved capacity in this function [peace and security],” read the document.

Both the SAPS and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) received additional funding through the Second Special Appropriation Bill to provide for unforeseen costs resulting from the unrest.

The MTBPS document further states that over the next few years, the department of defence will reprioritise funds to set up a rapid response unit. It will also implement reforms to manage long-standing pressure on compensation that is resulting in irregular spending.

Overall, the government’s peace and security cluster, which includes the police and defence departments, is budgeting to spend on average R218.1bn a year over the next three years, of which more than 60% will go to compensation of employees.

Over the same period, the function will reprioritise funds to enhance capacity in institutions combating crime and corruption, and upgrade information and communications technology infrastructure for greater efficiency.

The document described as “shocks” the near-collapse of Eskom and continued electricity supply constraints, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the outbreak of public violence in July , saying these events, combined with existing weakness in public finances, have virtually eliminated the fiscal space government requires to respond effectively to future crises.

The unrest and looting, characterised as an insurrection, resulted in more than 300 deaths, billions of rand in damage and destruction to infrastructure, social services and business in the two provinces.

The government deployed thousands of soldiers, initially 25,000 and later reduced to 10,000, to quell the looting and violence.

It was criticised by opposition parties and commentators for a delayed response.