President Jacob Zuma
President Jacob Zuma

Zuma slammed for “illegal deployment” of troops

By Time of article published Jan 24, 2012

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Kwanele Butana

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has come under fire for flouting constitutional requirements over the deployment of the military in civilian areas.

Letters sent by the Presidency to Speaker Max Sisulu informing Parliament about three major deployments last year authorised by Zuma showed that they were sent between three and six weeks after their respective deployments had commenced.

The constitution requires that only the president can authorise the deployment of the military, and also that Parliament must be informed “promptly and in appropriate detail” by the president about the deployment.

Yesterday, the DA wrote to Sisulu requesting him to act against Zuma for “repeated failure to respect Parliament’s standing in relation to defence force deployments”.

DA MP David Maynier said in a statement that letters from Zuma tabled in Parliament yesterday showed how constitutional provisions were violated during the deployments as Zuma “failed to inform Parliament about the details of deployments”.

The three deployments of the SA National Defence Force occurred:

l Over the festive season, in co-operation with the SAPS between November 1, 2011 until January 1, 2012;

l During COP17, with the SAPS, from November 21 to December 11 last year.

l In the Democratic Republic of Congo from November 23 to December 7, 2011.

“The president also failed to comply with the Defence Act of 2002 in that he did not, as prescribed in section 18(4) of that act, provide any information as to expenditure incurred or expected to be incurred by the employment of the SANDF,” Maynier said.

He added that Zuma’s letters showed that Ndivhuwo Mabaya, spokesperson for the defence ministry, “had no idea what he was talking about when he reportedly claimed last week that the festive season deployment of the defence force was authorised by a presidential proclamation made in 2001 or 2002”.

Maynier was referring to a Cape Times article in which legal experts slammed recent deployments of the military in civilian areas as “unconstitutional” and “intimidatory”.

The article referred to the following incidents of military deployment in Cape Town and Johannesburg:

l In Lavender Hill in November, to quell a flare-up of gang violence.

l In Claremont, as part of a crime-prevention operation last month.

l At Khayelitsha District Hospital this month, when two armoured vehicles and a number of armed soldiers monitored a protest;

l In Johannesburg, a human

rights worker had his phone confiscated and was arrested for taking photographs of a soldier beating a shopkeeper with a rifle.

Defending these deployments, Mabaya was quoted as saying that a proclamation from “2001 or 2002” enabled “soldiers to do anything, as long as they are asked by police”.

“Imagine if every time the police want to to call on soldiers, they must call on the president,” he said. However, it is clear from Zuma’s letters that a specific authorisation is, in fact, required.

In the article, constitutional law Professor Pierre de Vos pointed out that the notion of a blanket authorisation of employment of the defence force “subverted the meaning of the constitution or law”.

De Vos said the section of the constitution was “to prevent the situation (which) occurred in apartheid, when the military was used against civilians”.

The SA National Defence Force Union has also weighed in on the controversy, issuing a statement saying the deployment of soldiers into civilian areas was unlawful and unconstitutional.

Yesterday, Bongani Majola, a spokesman in the Presidency, referred queries to the Department of Defence.

Attempts to get comment from the department drew a blank as Mabaya did not respond to messages left on his voicemail.

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