The jury is out on the EFF’s militia ‘army’

The military is concerned about the law being 'quiet' on whether civilians can wear camouflage uniforms resembling that of a militia.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) show of force with armed members in camouflage gear may be concerning, but the law is unclear on political parties’ and their private militias, such as this and the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) yesterday said it was concerned about the law being “quiet” on whether persons other than the military can wear camouflage uniforms resembling that of a military.

A row of armed EFF men dressed in near-military regalia were seen outside the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture earlier this week.

While the group was ostensibly a private security detail protecting party leader Julius Malema during his address outside the Parktown venue, their presence – and especially openly carrying firearms – has sparked the Democratic Alliance’s decision to ask Police Minister Bheki Cele to confirm its legality.

SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said while it was concerning that a growing number of people, even under the auspices of private security, were dressing in camouflage uniforms, the law was not strict enough regarding what constitutes military regalia.

The Defence Act of 2002 merely refers to the SANDF camouflage uniform, which is registered by military personnel.

“According to the law, civilians are not allowed to wear camouflage, but it is becoming fashionable to dress like the military, and the law is quiet on that,” Mgobozi said.

The DA’s shadow police minister, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said there was concern over the message and behaviour of the EFF and its leadership pertaining to weapons and war talk. She was referring to an incident earlier this year, with Malema on video firing a semi-automatic firearm on stage at a rally in East London.

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Kohler Barnard previously complained about Malema’s use of state-funded private security in parliament. But she wanted clarity from Cele on whether the individuals at the EFF’s demonstration this week were authorised to wear those uniforms and – more importantly – carry what she suspected were automatic firearms. Only registered security personnel were permitted by law to openly carry weapons.

“It’s also so bizarre that he is being guarded by security personnel whose uniform was strangely reminiscent of the president’s security detail, which comprises of members of the SANDF.”

Malema and the EFF could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.

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