SANDF issues code of conduct specifically for Operation Notlela


What a retired senior army officer calls “a rather densely written 10 page document” and a military analyst feels is not “good enough” to meet the demands set by a High Court judge, is the response of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to part of Judge Hans Fabricius’ ruling in the Collins Khosa case.

The document is titled “Mission Specific Code of Conduct for Members of the SANDF specific to the State of National Disaster in terms of Section 19 of the Defence Act 42 of 2002: Operation Notlela”.

Khosa died after he was allegedly assaulted by soldiers, police and Johannesburg Metro police at his house in Alexandra for apparently drinking alcohol. The Easter weekend incident drew widespread condemnation and is one of more than 30 apparent incidents of soldier brutality during the coronavirus lockdown reported to the Military Ombud for investigation. Khosa’s family approached the North Gauteng High Court after the SANDF said it would not suspend soldiers involved in the apparent murder, even though it was being investigated.

The mission specific code of conduct is in line with the judge’s ruling which pertains specifically to the current deployment of more than 70 000 SANDF personnel, authorised by the force’s commander-in-chief, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier points out the Notlela code does not mean the national defence force did not previously have a code of conduct.

“The High Court determined a ‘deployment-specific’ code be drawn up in addition to existing rules,” he said.

According to retired SA Army colonel David Peddle, the landward force of the SANDF has “a comprehensive booklet on rules for opening fire and the legal aspects of urban deployments in South Africa”.

The newly written Notlela Code of Conduct addresses, among others, looting/public disturbance, armed robbery, cash-in-transit heists, provocation/insults/disrespect and roadblocks.

It is jointly signed by Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and General Solly Shoke, SANDF Chief.

Olivier maintains the guidelines in the Notlela code are not good enough “to meet the intent of the ruling (by Judge Fabricius)”.

“They contain errors, still don’t provide sufficient guidance to soldiers in difficult situations and have the appearance of being rushed,” he told defenceWeb adding “further revision is needed”.

Among “dos” in the SANDF Notlela code are soldiers have an inherent right to self-defence; crowds can be dispersed by verbal warnings, shouting or arrest; calls for back-up are permitted; police should be allowed to “take over” and must be protected. Finally, under “dos” the document has it “if situation escalates, withdraw”.

Only three “don’ts” are listed. “Don’t get in a physical fight with members of the public”; “don’t shoot a person” and “no warning shot”.

SA Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole last week issued a new directive to police apparently in compliance with the ruling by the High Court judge.

The new SAPS directive states “there can simply be no justification for torture, ever”.

It cautions against “serious and humiliating rights infringements” arresting and detaining people for lockdown breaches where attendance at courts can be done through summons or other less intrusive means.