There will be no “skop, skiet en donder” of civilians by members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) during the national lockdown – unless it’s necessary to do so.
That’s the word from defence and military veterans minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who was outlining the role of members of the SANDF during the national lockdown due to start at midnight on Thursday.
Mapisa-Nqakula was moving to assure the public that they would not be abused by soldiers, who are due to be deployed to work with members of the SA Police Service to enforce compliance with the national lockdown.
“It will only be skop, skiet en donder when circumstances determine that. For now we’re a constitutional democracy. We do understand that our obligations are in terms of the constitution. Our soldiers understand the circumstances under which they are being deployed,” said Mapisa-Nqakula at a press conference on Wednesday night.
She said deploying the army had nothing to do with the demonstration of military might on the part of the government.
The minister was responding to questions over how members of the SANDF would treat citizens during the lockdown.
“The reality is that it’s not about being spiteful, it’s not about use of excessive power, it’s not about demonstrating how powerful the state is. It really is about protecting one another, protecting ourselves from this virus,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
She also dismissed videos of soldiers ordering civilians to return to their homes that were doing the rounds on social media as fake news.
“There is no deployment of soldiers, currently, in the streets of South Africa … When you have seen them, you have seen them in moving, in transit,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said there was a big difference between the deployment of the army under the terms of the National Disaster Management Act and section 37 of the constitution, which was a state of emergency.
“I think that the members of the South African National Defence Force are educated enough to appreciate that law enforcement in the context of a Disaster Management Act and law enforcement in the context of section 37 of the constitution, which is the state of emergency, there will be a difference between the two,” she said.
She said the Saps would be taking the lead during the lockdown, with the soldiers only playing a supporting role.