2014-04-07 19:41

Picture : Lt John Dovey

I want you to picture this for a second. For some of you it will be a new thing to picture in your mind’s eye; for some, a long forgotten memory you have buried, only to come out and haunt you. And for some, it puts you back to the age of 18, R1 rifle in your hand, obeying orders. I want you to remember what it was like, imagine the images, see if you can relate to this.

Its 23 October, 2014. A combined force of seven thousand SANDF troops and SAPS have moved in and have sealed off  Mitchells plain from Muizenberg to Lavender Hill, all areas pointed out by Premier Helen Zille. They carry out house-to-house searches, arresting 358 people, some of who are immediately charged in “special courts”. The purpose is to eliminate criminal elements and intimidating forces from the area. Sadly five youths, including two twelve year olds, are shot and killed as they lay sleeping in their Lavender Hill home. Believed to be a tik storage facility for a known drug cartel, police intelligence also suspected that there were eighteen gang members staying at the house. According to General Solly Shoke, Chief of the Defence Force at the time, "There were actually only five people in the house and all were killed because they reacted hostilely (sic)". According to the police docket, seventy-eight cartridges and twenty-six projectiles were found in the house, with four of the children found with gunshot wounds to the head. According to the police, some dagga (cannabis) was allegedly found. No mass drug store was discovered and, when lawyers for the family arranged for an international US forensic specialist to examine the seized dagga, the SANDF failed to produce it for examination.

Obviously this is a fictional story and couldn’t happen or have happened, right? Well, actually it did. I changed a few words, and it is a combination of two stories: one was an extract from the events of 23 October, 1984 in the Vaal Triangle, whereby SAPD and SADF troops sealed off the Vaal Triangle townships of Sebokeng, Sharpeville and Boipatong, whilst the other instance occurred when five youths were killed on 8 October 1993, in a SADF raid on an alleged weapons storage facility in Umtata.

I’ve seen these types of headline far too many times recently: Deploy SANDF to help police fight drugs: Zille, Zille wants army in Western Cape's rural areas. It is worrying, and is this what we have to look forward to in a DA lead government?

The SA Constitution leaves it to the Provincial Government to:

- Empower each province to monitor police conduct;

·         To oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service, including receiving reports on the police service;

·         To promote good relations between the police and the community; ·         To assess the effectiveness of visible policing; ·         And liaise with the Cabinet member responsible for policing with respect to crime and policing in the province. Section 206(3) of the Constitution of South Africa. In actual fact, when Ms Zille calls for the SANDF to assist in the Western Cape, she is indirectly telling us that she cannot fulfill her constitutional obligations as Premier, in that she cannot “oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service”. Not only do I find Ms Zille's constant calling for the SANDF to assist SAPS in the Western Cape, an insult to the SAPS officers working tirelessly day in and day out, doing their utmost to make a difference, but I find it tells taxpayers of this country that it is okay for those, in positions of authority, to fail. Well, it is not okay. Fact of the matter is that we don’t need the SANDF in those areas. What we need is a competent, experienced police officer as Commissioner of Police, not an ex social worker, banker and executive of the National Ports Authority of South Africa. Weaponry used by the SANDF

I would like to make you aware of a recent article by Erika Gibson, a well respected specialist journalist, “The St Johns Shootout - to serve and protect or to execute?”

Gibson points out the following regarding weaponry used: “The next moment one of the soldiers fires two shots with his pistol before the rest start shooting at the guard under the car. On the footage one can literally see a dust cloud moving from under the car due to the number of shots fired by the R4’s.” The soldiers used pistols and R4 rifles. When we talk about pistols in the SANDF, we are talking either Star or Beretta makes of pistol. Both fire 9mm Parabellum rounds, a NATO standard, an FMJ (full metal jacket) or jacketed round. Parabellum is derived from the Latin: Si vis pacem, para bellum (translation: “To seek peace, prepare for war”).  A jacketed bullet (the projectile) is a lead mass encapsulated by a copper jacket. The reason why the military use this round is that Declaration III of the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibits the use of expanding ammunition in warfare, as FMJ rounds are designed to pass through the intended target, traveling at 390 m/s, exiting and possibly hitting something or someone else. This differs from the hollow point rounds used by Oscar Pistorius for example. These were originally intended for law enforcement, to prevent the projectile form exiting the target and injuring someone else. It expands to double its original size, which makes for effective stopping power, but also causes severe tissue damage, This is why the Hague Convention banned expanding rounds; the aim being not to kill, but rather to render your enemy ineffective, in theory, anyway. R4 rifles

The R4 is a 5.56mm assault rifle that was introduced into service by the South African Defence Force (SADF) in 1980. It can be, and often is, fired in full automatic mode - that is 600–750 bullets per minute flying in any direction the rifleman intends. It also fires a jacketed round, but a lot faster as it doesn’t lose momentum at the same rate as a 9mm bullet does. The bullets travel at 940 m/s, and are capable of killing a person at 500m. So, after reading Erica Gibson's article about what happened to a handful of soldiers at Port St Johns, what would your expectations be, if a battalion of soldiers were to move into the Cape Flats? I shudder at the idea of how much collateral damage there would be if a stick of soldiers fired on a group of gangsters, high on tik, more than likely armed with (SAPS/ SANDF issue) R5s, R4s, AK-47s and an assortment of pistols and revolvers, and who don’t care about the lives of the soldiers or innocent bystanders.

Ms Zille also doesn’t realise that there will be innocent children and other bystanders killed by stray SANDF bullets. It may be accidental, but the soldiers who live in these gang-infested areas, will have to deal with angry communities, angry families and gang members who will stop at nothing to get rid of them. How many instances have we heard of where a SAPS officer is shot and killed at or near his residence?

Ms Zille’s call for the involvement of soldiers with something for which they were not trained or appropriately prepared for, is irresponsible.  It shows complete ignorance and disrespect for our soldiers. It also reeks of cheap politicking, electioneering and an attempt to curry favour with the local communities/voters, because fact of the matter is that the Premier has no powers to employ the SANDF.

Soldiers are trained in the art of war, it's not a nice job, it's a task only a special kind of person can do,  Soldiers kill, that's the truth of it, we were trained to point a rifle at someone's chest and pull the trigger when the order is given to fire. SAPS are trained to uphold the law, and stop criminals from killing or committing crimes, to find the criminal and bring him to justice. There is a big difference.

On a side note I today saw the Premier say that the DA, Should they win, will up the number of SAPS by 250 000... At a wild and generous guess, if 12 000 officers are trained per annum,  how long will this take? Food for thought.

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