The manner and methods soldiers can use during the just started deployment to assist in halting rampant looting, rioting and violence is defined by a Code of Conduct.
The eight page document published yesterday (Wednesday, 14 July) tells soldiers and their commanders, be it at section, platoon, company or battalion level, what they can and cannot do while on duty in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Issued in terms of the 2002 Defence Act, the Code of Conduct lists 14 different actions/operations soldiers are restricted to while detached to serve on the latest iteration of Operation Prosper. This standing operation makes provision for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist government, be it departments, provinces and entities such as Eskom, Transnet and others, when threats arise. These are not generally, as is currently the case, the result of civil insurrection but geared more to aiding when structures collapse as was the case with the North West provincial department of health three years ago.
Soldiers assisting police in “preventing and combating crime and maintaining and preserving law and order with specific reference to declared hotspot areas,” are restricted to roadblocks and vehicle control points (VCPs); patrols; preserving life and protecting property; protection of National Key Points; ensuring freedom of movement for own forces; cordon and search; firefighting; airborne command and control; trooping; road clearance; escort duties; air transportation of police; and casevac.
The official government publication makes no mention of the Code of Conduct replacing or being additional to the existing Code of Conduct for Uniformed Members of the SANDF, nor does it give an indication of the rules of engagement (ROEs) for the new deployment.
“The guidelines are applicable for the full duration of the operation (three months) to ensure effective command and control, legal compliance and legitimacy. Tactical commanders are allowed to issue specific guidelines/instructions/orders for specific areas of responsibilities in line with the guidelines,” the notice states.
It goes on to say the national defence force’s co-operation with police is “limited to protection of life and property during crime combating operations”.
Soldiers are told to “exercise personal restraint”, use less than lethal ammunition, not to fire warning shots, not to assault civilians, “exercise a high degree of tolerance” to provocation, insults or disrespect.
Other points in the Code of Conduct inform soldiers not to use foul language or speak to the media along with an emphasis on using “minimum force” dependent on which “weapon” a soldier is armed with.