In what is believed to be the third incident of violence – apparently a murder – involving soldiers since the 28 March lockdown started, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said it “will co-operate” with the police investigation.
“The SANDF confirms an incident in Alexandra on 11 April that led to a case being opened at Alexandra Police Station against the national defence force.
“The SANDF reiterates its members are expected to act within the confines of the law during this difficult period as they enforce lockdown regulations and help save lives in support of the police. Any action outside the law will not be condoned,” a SANDF Corporate Communications Directorate statement said.
The largest military trade union in the country – Sandu (SA National Defence Union) – goes further with national secretary Pikkie Greeff calling for “swift command action” from SANDF leadership.
“In accordance with the Defence Act a Board of Inquiry must be convened to investigate the allegations. We call on the SANDF command to ensure this is done immediately,” he said in a statement.
“A Board of Investigation has the right to access all witnesses and evidence. The public must understand the SANDF will not allow its soldiers to act impervious of the law and without consequence – both the Constitution and the military justice system simply doesn’t allow for it.
“It will be easy to identify the soldiers allegedly involved as deployment patrols are subject to designated so-called sticks or platoons within specific patrol area parameters. That an incident occurred for which back up was called and effected, would have to be reported in the section and or platoon commander’s patrol report of a specific day. This report would be filed with the deployment headquarters which would then report to the Chief Joint Operations command centre.
“SANDF command has full control and access to these reports as well as to every uniformed member and the daily history of its troops’ section and platoon movements.
“No soldier is by law allowed to refuse to testify at a Board of Inquiry.
“This Board should convene urgently, identify possibly implicated soldiers and as a precautionary measure withdraw those implicated from the deployment, pending finalisation of the criminal investigation,” the Sandu statement elaborated on how the apparent Alexandra murder should be handled in addition to co-operating with the police investigation.
The first incident of alleged soldier abuse of and violence against civilians not obeying national lockdown regulations was reported to the Office of the Military Ombud by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais. Receipt of the complaint was acknowledged by the Ombud, retired lieutenant general Vusi Masondo.
When further incidents of soldiers apparently using excessive force to bring civilians into line with requirements of the national state of disaster surfaced, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula called for SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke to monitor the situation. She also called for South Africa’s top soldier to “deal with members proven to have used excessive or unnecessary force”.
The Alexandra, Johannesburg, incident on Easter Sunday apparently stemmed from soldiers telling residents in a house they were not allowed to consume alcohol. This was allegedly followed by confiscation of liquor, an argument which is said to have turned into a fight and the subsequent death of one of the people living in the house.