Citizen Reporter
3 minute read
15 Jul 2021
4:12 pm

‘Don’t fire warning shots, don’t assault civilians’: Here are the updated rules for troops

Citizen Reporter

Although soldiers have the right to self-defence, they have been instructed to ignore provocation, disrespect and insults.

A member of the SANDF Military Police clashes with looters in Dlamini Extension 5, Soweto, trying to keep them away from the Supa Store supermarket, 13 July 2021. Shopping centres, malls, and stores have been looted across Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal for a number of days, allegedly linked to former president Jacob Zuma's imprisonment. Picture: Michel Bega

With 25,000 troops from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) due to be deployed, government has published the code of conduct for their period of their deployment – effective from 12 July 2021 to 12 October 2021.

Government had initially deployed 2500 members of the SANDF on Monday to reinforce South African Police Service (Saps) operations in restoring order in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, due to the looting and violence the country has witnessed over the past few days.

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As of Wednesday, the number of soldiers deployed doubled to 5000 as they were on the ground to help quell the violence, according to acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

However, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula told Parliament that she had submitted a request for the deployment of 25,000 soldiers, pending authorisation and approval.

South African Army chief, General Lawrence Khulekani Mbatha, has also ordered that all reserve members report for duty.

Code of conduct

In the midst of the number of soldiers increasing, the Department of Defense and Military Veterans has issued a new code of conduct, published on Wednesday.

The code details how SANDF members must react in certain situations and what they are required to do during the three-month deployment.

The soldiers’ main mandate is protect members of SAPS while they manage the situation at road blockages, during protests or looting.

They are also authorised to record events either in writing or by means of video or audio recordings where possible.

Although soldiers have the right to self-defence, they have been instructed to ignore provocation, disrespect and insults.

The soldiers should exercise restraint and issue a verbal warning, rather than assaulting members of the public.

They also should not fire warning shots and are further urged to use less than lethal ammunition where possible.

“The principal of minimum force should always be applied, whilst keeping in mind that minimum force will depend on the weapon issued to the deployed forces.”

Here are the do’s and don’t in specific situations:

Road blockages/Public Unrest and/or Looting

  • Protect the Saps while they manage the situation.
  • Assist the Saps to remove blockages only when it is safe to do so.
  • Where possible, record events either in writing or by means of video/audio recordings.
  • Do not fire warning shots.
  • Exercise personal restraint and do not assault members of the public.
  • Use less than lethal ammunition where possible.

Roadblocks, Vehicle Control Points (VCPs) and Cordons

  • Saps are responsible for establishing roadblocks/VCPs and cordons.
  • Protect the SAPS while they conduct the operation.
  • Positioning of early warning groups.
  • Provision of guarding duties to the SAPS in the event of arrested persons.

Provocation/Insults and Disrespect

  • Exercise a high tolerance level to provocation/insults and/or disrespect aimed at you or SAPS members.
  • Warn civilians to cease with such behaviour.
  • Do not assault civilians.
  • Do not run away when attacked by civilians.

The soliders must also do all they can to protect the image of the SANDF, in other words no foul language when communicating with the media or civilians.

At this stage, 208 more incidences – 52 in Gauteng and 156 in KwaZulu-Natal –  of looting have been reported.

This is in addition to the 219 cases that were opened in Gauteng while 464 cases were opened in KwaZulu-Natal since Tuesday night.

Additional reporting by Vhahangwele Nemakonde