The majority of military deployments inside South Africa’s borders are classed as operations other than war (OOTW) and this has brought about change as regards certain legal aspects on the role of soldiers.
This saw Cape Town-based Reserve Force unit, the Nelson Mandela Artillery Regiment (formerly the Cape Field Artillery), present an extensive course titled “the Firearm Control Act learning programme” (FCALP) for gunners and other musterings. Major D Coetzee of the regiment notes in a post on the Reserve Force website “most opportunities at Fort iKapa are shared and other units joined in”.
“The FCA LP is a vital course before any member can be called up for guard duty or other deployment. If not FCA LP qualified, the member does not qualify for call-ups. The main aspects of the course include safety precautions, musketry coaching and legal aspects around firearms in the military environment. Members had to learn detailed knowledge about firearms and the Firearms Act. They learnt about the legal aspects when using a firearm and what rights a military member has, as well as criminal law and how to react in situations where there is, for example, domestic violence and when members are on duty carrying a firearm,” according to Coetzee.
Top defence analyst Helmoed Heitman told defenceWeb the Nelson Mandela Regiment legal instruction on firearms probably has more to do with South African firearms legislation than standard military firearms training.
“Essentially any soldier deployed in-country in a scenario where he or she is armed, needs to be up to speed as to what a police officer is allowed to do, rather than what a soldier on a military deployment does and what an ordinary civilian is allowed to do,” he said, adding the civilian side was “essentially only self-defence and perhaps to assist someone in danger of being murdered or seriously injured”.
He has a suggestion to simplify matters – “surely the material is not that complex and could – and should – be set out on a field card for troops to carry and review daily when deployed internally”.