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NATJOINTS on the state of readiness for the upcoming 2024 elections

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Today marks exactly 10 days before South Africans exercise their democratic right to vote. As the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) which is led by the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force and the State Security Agency, we are confident that the measures that have been put in place are sufficient to ensure that the country’s upcoming general elections proceed without any incidents of crime and disruptions.

Having conducted a national security assessment with key role players in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster, we are satisfied with the operational plan that is currently being implemented, and can assure South Africans that a conducive environment for a peaceful election has been prepared.

While measures have been put in place, the ultimate responsibility of a safe and secure election lies with each one of us. It is a partnership that is required to create harmony, respect for self and others even as we make our way to the polls and back home.

Ladies and gentlemen

The national priority committee comprising various government departments and co-chaired by the Independent Electoral Commission the SAPS, SANDF and SSA was established a year ago. This committee is set on ensuring the development and actualisation of a security strategy that encompasses the implementation of command and control measures to protect the integrity and credibility of the 2024 general elections.

The executive management of the SAPS recently visited each province to assess their state of readiness. The work done with the respective provincial commissioners at the helm, confirms that indeed all provinces are ready and have put the necessary measures in place to prevent and combat incidents of violence and criminality before, during and post elections.

It is worth noting that training of law enforcement agencies on the electoral act and other legislation in support of the 2024 national and provincial government elections has been conducted.

Ladies and gentlemen…The planning for the safety and security of the 2024 General Elections has been finalised. The operational phase will commence from Wednesday, 22 May 2024 with the activation of the NATJOINTS Coordination Centre, until 09 June 2024. The Centre has operated in various locations in the past, during COVID-19 at the Reserve Bank. This centre which is equipped with the state of art modern technology will officially be opened by the JCPS ministers on Friday, 24th May 2024.

This NATJOINTS Coordination Centre (NCC) is operating around the clock, closely monitoring the situation in the country through proactive identification of threats and vulnerabilities. The Centre serves as a central point of contact for coordination of information and the reporting of incidents to ensure a swift, prompt and coordinated response. This is where all operations in relation to major events in the country including the National and Provincial General Elections will be coordinated from. The NCC structure is mirrored at provincial level through the PROVJOINTS activated through the provincial joint operation centres.

The NATJOINTS and PROVJOINTS’ five-pillar approach is being implemented to ensure that all areas of concern are covered through:

  • Intelligence gathering, analysis and co-ordination;
  • Proactive approach which includes high visibility to police, prevent and respond to any crime eventuality;
  • Combat approach through law enforcement in response to any violation of the law through deployment of specialized units, supported by the SANDF should the need arise for the SANDF to exercise their secondary role of supporting the SAPS;
  • Reactive approach through detection and case management; and the fifth approach; and
  • Awareness and information sharing led by the GCIS, IEC, the Natjoints and other government departments in keeping interest parties and communities at home and abroad updated through messaging that will enhance the safety and security of everyone in the country. The media will continuously be updated on a daily basis during the election period by the Natjoints.

Risk assessment

Working through the Operational Intelligence Co-ordination Committee (OICC), we have identified a number of high-risk voting stations and potentially volatile areas that are being monitored on an on-going basis. Deployments are subsequently proportional to the level of risk identified through intensified operations, informed by thorough analysis and intelligence-based reports.

Threats identified such as community protests are already being attended to and those that are found to be in contravention of the law are being dealt with. Our Public Order Policing Units are on the ground and are ready to prevent and combat any such incidents.

We are aware of social media posts calling for a shutdown by a group of truck drivers this week. As previously communicated, there will be zero tolerance towards threats, intimidation and closure of our roads.  Law enforcement agencies are on high alert to ensure there are no criminal activities and that law abiding citizens are not inconvenienced. We call on the Road Freight Industry workers to communicate their grievances within the confines of the law.

We reiterate our stance, that no lawlessness and any form of criminality will be tolerated.

Ladies and gentlemen

We are in the first phase of the elections. To this end, the NATJOINTS is satisfied that from a security point of view, the securing of voter registrations, policing of gatherings, celebrations and demonstrations, intensifying stabilization at hotspot areas across the country, enhancing visibility and ensuring crime prevention around election related matters, has been executed with precision .

The second phase of the election which is the period from the 27th up until the announcement of the results, will see static deployments at voting stations, escorting of voter material and IEC staff, securing of election warehouses, transportation of voting material and the enforcement of the Electoral Act.

During the voting days, the role of law enforcement agencies is therefore to:

  • Maintain law and order
  • Providing escorts to voting stations and warehouses
  • Accompanying mobile voting stations
  • Ensure no firearms, and dangerous weapons are allowed at voting stations
  • Assist presiding officers by removing anyone who fails to comply with rules that infringe on the rights of voters within the voting station
  • Assist the presiding officer to ensure no political activity takes place within the boundaries of the voting station.
  • Assist the presiding officer to remove any person behaving in an inappropriate and undesirable manner from the voting station.
  • Ensuring that those who have been banned from the voting station (for any unbecoming behavior) do not attempt to enter the voting station.
  • Accompany the presiding officer to deliver ballot boxes and other election material to the counting station.
  • Ensuring the voting station and surroundings are secure by assisting presiding officers with monitoring the boundaries of the voting station.
  • Ensuring that no person either than voters or persons authorized to enter or remain are within the boundaries of the voting station.
  • Assisting to ensure safety and security at the voting station prevails until the counting and wrapping up procedures have been completed.
  • Assisting the presiding officer in enforcing the electoral code of conduct in respect of the following: Undue influence, Impersonation, Intentional false statements, Infringement of secrecy

Action has already been taken by those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

During the first and second voter registration weekends, 50 cases were reported with 45 suspects arrested, with Gauteng reporting the most arrest with 11, followed by Limpopo with 9 arrests, followed by North West with 8 and Mpumalanga with 4.

A breakdown of the arrests per charges is as follows:

  • 11 were arrested for public violence
  • 10 were arrested for contravening the electoral act
  • 9 were arrested for assault
  • 2 were arrested for Malicious damage to property
  • While 13 were arrested for other cases.

During the period after voter registration weekend, 23 cases were reported.

Vandalism of posters

We take this opportunity to remind our communities that the constitution of our country provides that every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for a political party and to campaign for a political party or cause.

With this said, we caution communities not to vandalise, deface and remove posters of political parties as this constitutes an offence. Anyone found to be tampering with these posters or vandalizing them will be arrested. Such cases have been reported and arrests have been made for example in Sasolburg in the Free State where a 64-year-old woman was seen in a video tampering with a poster. She was arrested and charged for contravention of the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 which prohibits the unlawful removal and defacing of posters published by a registered party. The woman has since been released on a warning. In Gauteng, a 70-year-old man who was also seen on a video illegally removing posters was also arrested. Investigations are continuing to trace those behind the removal of posters in areas where they have been reported.

Break-in at IEC offices

Police are investigating two cases of a break-in at the IEC offices in Houghton in Gauteng and in Caledon in the  Western Cape. The Houghton case where a laptop has been stolen, the investigation is still underway. In Western Cape, seven suspects were arrested in Caledon after they broke into the IEC offices and stole a scanner and a projector. All seven suspects have appeared in court and were remanded in custody.

In relation to the third phase, which is the period after election results have been officially announced, plans are already in place to police celebrations and gatherings. Preparations for the inauguration of the President are also in full swing. These celebrations and gatherings will be policed through both the SASREA and gatherings act.

With this said, it is clear from our side that no lawlessness and any form of violence and criminality will be tolerated by law enforcement. The long arm of the law will not be selective nor will it be kind to those who attempt to disrupt the smooth running of elections.

We urge all South Africans from all walks of life to conduct themselves accordingly and to embrace their democratic rights.

We assure you all that maximum deployments and resources have been mobilised to ensure the successful execution of the operational plan.

Command and control measures are in place

The SAPS as the lead department will lead operations and will be supported by members of the Justice Crime, Prevention and Security Cluster such as the South African National Defence Force, Department of Home Affairs, the Metro Police Departments and other supporting departments.

Our main priority is to ensure a safe and secure election and that voters exercise their democratic right without being intimidated, harassed and threatened.

It’s important to highlight and assure communities that normal crime prevention and policing operations will continue during the duration of the elections.

On Social media disinformation

One of our biggest threats at the moment is fake news. We strongly condemn the spreading of fake news, unverified information, rumors or threats as this seeks to cause panic and confusion, and in some instances incite possible violence.

We urge members of the public to fact-check first before sharing anything on social media platforms. Those who are found to be sharing inflammatory messages and inciting violence will be charged accordingly. We, therefore, urge prompt reporting of these incidents to ensure that law enforcement deals with such issues. One person has already appeared in the Chatsworth magistrate court on a charge of contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act 17 of 1956, which prohibits gatherings that could endanger public peace. We are making a clarion call on political leaders to be responsible in the manner in which they communicate on public platforms.

We have noted an increase in the number of service delivery related protests.

To mitigate this, increased police visibility through the deployment of the public order policing unit has been made to potentially volatile areas to address large crowds.

We will continue to work closely with key role players to monitor developments and attend to them.

Law enforcement agencies are on the ground and will continue to apply fundamental policing principles, guided by the constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Every law enforcement officer has a responsibility and an obligation to execute their mandate, professionally, impartially and with integrity, and to do so within the confines of the laws of the country. Law enforcement officers are a-political and will enforce the law without fear or favour.

With this said, the message is clear, the NATJOINTS with the help of law abiding citizens is ready to ensure the safety and security of the 2024 General Elections.

Thank you.

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