There will be no carrying of groceries bags, taking photos or reacting to insults from the public for soldiers deployed to enforce national lockdown regulations, based on a new code of conduct issued by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
The code of conduct, published on Thursday, details how SANDF members are expected to behave in various scenarios during Operation Notlela, including during incidents of looting, drinking on private property, at roadblocks and other interactions with the public.
The mission-specific code of conduct comes after the suspension and investigation of soldiers present during the death of Collins Khosa, 40, who was allegedly beaten to death by members of the SANDF in Alexandra, Johannesburg, in March.
Lawyers on behalf of the family argued the ministers of police and defence had failed to take steps to prevent illegal action by law enforcement officials, adding their public statement had defended, downplayed and encouraged the use of force.
The code of conduct, shared on SANDF social media sites in the format of “dos and “don’ts”, details how soldiers will be expected to disperse crowds during looting – they should not fire warning shoots, shoot civilians or become involved in a physical fight.
In the scenario where a person is drinking in their yard, SANDF members should ignore the situation and not enter the premises.
Although soldiers have the right to self-defence, they have been instructed to ignore provocation, disrespect and insults. They should exercise restraint and issue a verbal warning, rather than shooting or engaging in a physical fight.
In the case of a roadblock, SANDF members have been instructed to assist in establishing roadblocks, offer protection to police officers and health department staff, observe suspicious vehicles and persons, and act as guards to arrested individuals. They are not permitted to establish roadblocks independently, search vehicles or persons, make arrests, handle evidence, man control points, control traffic, or assault members of the public.
The code of conduct also requires soldiers to sanitise their hands, adhere to social distancing, and to wear masks.
They may not carry grocery bags or luggage for members of the public and must “stay away from members of the community”. This includes the prohibition of fraternising with the public, taking photos with members of the public and accepting gifts and favours. Soldiers may also not photograph or record operations and post photos or videos with patrol information on social media.
Any misconduct or violation of this code of conduct can be reported at any military police station, SAPS station or via the office of the Military Ombud.