These are the instructions and the rules soldiers have to follow when confronting looters and rioters in South Africa

 ·15 Jul 2021

The Department of Defence and Military Veterans has published the code of conduct for ‘Operation Prosper’ – detailing the rules that South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members will have to follow in their response to the ongoing violence and looting being seen in South Africa.

In a government gazette published on Wednesday evening (14 July), the department said that upholding and enforcing the law remains the primary responsibility of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

“When the SANDF is employed in cooperation with the SAPS, SANDF members have the same powers and authority as the SAPS, excluding the investigation of crime. Notwithstanding this, SANDF members may perform tasks and duties they are adequately trained and equipped for,” it said.

The code of conduct further states that the SANDF’s cooperation with SAPS is limited to the protection of life and property during crime combating operations.

The code of conduct also provides a breakdown of what SANDF members are required to do, and how they are required to act 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.

Self-defence and proper conduct

During the above-mentioned activities, members of the SANDF must always treat the public with respect and human dignity and exercise a high level of tolerance and restraint, the code of conduct states.

“SANDF members are not permitted to make any unauthorised statements to either the public or the media,” the department said.

“Any statements required for the purposes of an investigation by the SAPS must be given after consultation with and in the presence of a military legal practitioner.

“Do not use foul language when communicating with the media or civilians.”

The code of conduct also states clearly that SANDF members have an inherent right to self-defence.

“This right to self-defence may be exercised to defend oneself, other members, prime mission equipment (PME), property, SAPS members and any member of the public where life is threatened and/or where there is an imminent threat of serious injury or destruction of property.

“Where there has been live firing it must be reported and recorded within a reasonable time, the report to include the place, how many rounds were fired and the outcome of the action in self-defence.”

However, the firing of warning shots is prohibited and the department said that the principle of minimum force should always be applied, whilst keeping in mind that minimum force will depend on the weapon issued to the deployed forces.

Mass deployment

The code of conduct comes as the government prepares to drastically ramp its deployment of SANDF personnel in the coming days.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has requested the deployment of an additional 25,000 defence personnel to restore order in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng amid ongoing violence, looting, and the destruction of property in those provinces following the arrest of the former president, Jacob Zuma.

The minister reportedly told parliament on Wednesday that she is seeking approval from the National Security Council and president Cyril Ramaphosa.

In a virtual address to Parliament’s defence committee, Mapisa-Nqakula said that the president was not satisfied with the initial deployment of 2,500 soldiers, News24 reported.

An earlier proposal was for 10,000 members to be deployed.

The deployment of additional soldiers to areas affected by the ongoing violent attacks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal was being considered, president Ramaphosa told political party leaders.

Read: Government wants 25,000 more soldiers to be deployed to restore order in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng

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