Submission to the Portfolio Committee on Defence on the extension of policing powers to the SANDF when in support of SAPS - 28 April 2000


The Ceasefire Campaign supports the concept of a South African Police Service that cooperates with the community in creating a safe environment for all South Africans. We oppose the deployment of the Defence Force for internal policing tasks as this entrenches a re-militarisation of the police. We submit the following:

I. The past we come from: SAP, SADF and Intelligence cooperate as instruments of oppression

Any sign of remilitarisation is frighteningly reminiscent of the total militarisation of society under the Apartheid government of the 1980's, the period of "total onslaught" being met by "total strategy". One of the results of this strategy was the increasing use of troops to "maintain law and order" in the black townships and rural areas.

On 23 October 1984, in response to increasing resistance against apartheid, 7000 policemen and soldiers drove into Sebokeng in armoured vehicles at 2 a.m, raided every house, lined the streets at 10 metre intervals and sealed the entrances to the township. Similar raids on other townships throughout the country followed: apparently all black people had become "the enemy".

After the declaration of the 1985 State of Emergency, "soldiers acquired new powers and their activities became virtually indistinguishable from those of the police" (The Militarisation of South Africa" ed Jacklyn Cock and Laurie Nathan, 1989). Once the troops had acquired their extra policing powers, and with both police and soldiers dressed in camouflage uniform, it was impossible to make the distinction and there was very little difference in their behaviour. A National Service conscript, writing in the Sunday Tribune of 6 September 1985 about the Eastern Cape, said that "the SADF almost immediately inherited the lack of credibility and bad reputation of the Police". According to the Minister of Defence, there were 35 372 troops deployed in 96 townships in 1985.

Evidence to the Truth Commission has shown the extent of the assaults and atrocities committed on township residents by both police and troops. Members of the Security Services were protected against prosecution and their activities were for the most part unreported by the strictly controlled press; there was no redress for the victims of this violence. The difficulty which the Police Service is now undergoing in transforming from a Police Force to a Police Service shows the long-term effects of this entrenched violence against civilians in the 1980's and earlier.

The climax of the pre-1990 militarisation of all facets of society was the establishment of the State Security Council by Prime Minister P.W. Botha in about 1980. With its enormous secret powers reaching down to local government and community level, this structure became the key decision-making body in the State, while Parliament was reduced to rubber-stamp status. The security establishment, backbone and active arm of the State Security Council consisted of the Department of Defence and the SADF, the Intelligence Services, Armscor, the SA Police, the intellectual community embodied in the Institute of Strategic Studies at Pretoria University and the Terrorism Research Centre. This combination gave the apartheid regime an extremely strong hold on state power.The roles of the defence force and the police force became virtually interchangeable. The State Security Council with its different components was the apex of militarisation - in fact an internal military coup. It brought terrible suffering to the people of South Africa and destroyed all trust in the security forces; both, the army and the police, were seen as enemies of the people.

II. It is inappropriate for the defence force to carry out policing functions

On the basis of these considerations the Ceasefire Campaign endorses the findings of the Defence Review (1998), which reflect the requirements of transformation:

"The history of South Africa and many other countries indicates that it is inappropriate to utilise armed forces in a policing role on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. This perspective is based on the following considerations:

Armed forces are not trained, orientated or equipped for deployment against civilians. They are typically geared to employ maximum force against an external military aggressor.

On-going employment in a law-and-order function may lead to the defence force becoming politicised and increasingly involved in non-military activities.

Such employment may also undermine the image and legitimacy of the defence force amongst sections of the population.

Internal deployment places a substantial burden on the defence budget. It also has a disruptive effect on the economy where large numbers of part-time soldiers are called up.

Efforts to apply military solutions to political problems are inherently limited and may undermine resolution of these problems.

In the light of the above, the Departments of Defence and Safety and Security are currently formulating plans to allow for the withdrawal of the SANDF from a policing role. The SANDF would then be deployed only in exceptional circumstances, such as a state of emergency or national defence or a breakdown of public order beyond the capacity of the SAPS."

III. From police force to police service

When negotiations for South Africaís transition to democracy started, it was immediately recognised that one of the core concerns for a successful transformation of state and society was the transformation of the police. Coming from a history where the police force, in cooperation with the defence force and secret security structures, was used as one of the central instruments of oppression, it was crucial to the transformation process to de-militarise the police. The new spirit is expressed in the new name: the South African Police Service. This shows the determination of the democratic South Africa that all conduct of the police has to be measured against the principle of "serving the community". To achieve this, transformation of police on all levels and in all its facets became necessary.

From war to cooperation: One of the first steps towards establishing a functioning police service was to rebuild the trust of the community in members of the police force; but also vice versa: to educate police staff that citizens are not "the enemy". The old image of each other as two forces at war, as was entrenched in many areas, had to be replaced by a mutual understanding of police-community cooperation. However, reference is still frequently made to "the security forces", which suggests that the police is still not perceived to be a service but an armed force to be deployed against an enemy. The use of non-military titles in the SAPS is evidently not enough to liberate the minds of South Africans from the shadows of the past. A change of culture and of perceptions is required. This will not be achieved if the SANDF is deployed for policing duties. (See appendix on Community Police Forums)

From riot control to crime prevention: under the apartheid regime the police, together with the other security forces, was misused to carry out atrocities and to fight a total war against their own people. This was the purpose the SAP was structured and trained for. The SAPS is still in the process of transforming itself into the police service that is now required; one that serves the community by preventing crime and violence, by educating people about safety, by cooperating and encouraging initiatives against domestic violence and child abuse, by teaching people about their rights and by upholding the law with the least violent and threatening means possible. This requires completely different training, strategies and equipment than the military has at its disposal.

From intimidation to communication: Where in the past policing was mainly about maintaining power over individuals or over whole communities, it now has to be build on transparency and communication. One of the major challenges the SAPS is faced with is the establishment of channels for communication and cooperation with citizens. Structures like Business against Crime, Community Police Forums, Police Reservists and Community Volunteers have been created to actively involve citizens in support of police and their activities. This reflects that the organisation of policing always needs to hold centralisation and decentralisation in tension. Centralisation is required to give the police the powers they need. Decentralisation is needed in order to ensure the sensitivity of the police to the concerns and needs of the communities they serve.

IV. Conclusions

We submit that the cooperation of SAPS and SANDF, with regard to planned extension of this cooperation but also as it is practised currently, is a step back towards a re-militarisation of the police. Already there seem to be plans to revert to the old system of military-police cooperation. The Defence Force is trained, structured and equipped to fight an external enemy. Not only is the continuous use of the SANDF for policing contrary to the policy framework set out in the Defence Review, it is a short-sighted, ill conceived, anti-democratic and ultimately dangerous policy. It will only serve to perpetuate the militarisation of South Africa that was set in motion by the apartheid regime.

The continuing transformation of the police in South Africa can only be achieved if all efforts are being made to educate and equip police staff to provide a secure environment in cooperation with communities.

Already now there are examples of police/ defence force cooperation gone wrong. In the East Rand near Johannesburg people tell stories about interference of members of the defence force stationed in the Kathorus area with policing matters, particularly in instances of domestic violence. Allegations are also that police officers and soldiers collude in corruption. Even if these allegations have not been properly investigated and proven yet they are an indication of the fears of the community that the old pattern of military/police intimidation and violence continues. Another negative example of police/defence force cooperation were the recent raids in Hillbrow and Yeoville in Johannesburg where massive defence force presence was used to harass citizens and foreigners while drug deals were continuing undisturbed at a distance of about 30 metres from the road blocks.

The Ceasefire Campaign argues that the budget for Safety and Security should be increased substantially so that a higher caliber of staff can be recruited, trained and supported; if necessary funds from the Defence Budget be transferred for this purpose, rathe than using and trying to retrain soldiers for police duties.

Transformation necessitates the development of new curricula for police training that reflect a new approach to policing, e.g. the inclusion of non-violent methods of conflict resolution;

It is widely acknowledged that in most areas of safety and security less militarisation and greater civilian involvement is needed. The call for active civilian participation in peacekeeping missions in our region and internationally ( White Paper on Peacekeeping Missions, 1998) is informed by the same view.

The establishment of special crime-fighting units such as The Scorpions is welcomed as a positive initiative for all South Africans in safety and security measures today.

Police functions should also be extended to border control under the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs. South Africa is not at war with the neighbouring states or their citizens, so militarising the borders might send wrong signals to our neighbours. A clear line must be drawn against any repetition of practises of the past. In 1986, when the SADF magazine Paratus reported on game rangers of the Natal Parks Board patrolling the area after two-months training by the Pongola Commando in drill, weapons handling and ambushing. The comment by Paratus was "the game rangers of the Natal Parks Board are well-trained to deal with terrorists" (Militarisation Dossier, produced by the Human Awareness Programme, 1986). Involvement of game rangers in border control is happening even now. Border control must be a police function with the same emphasis on serving the community and preventing crime and violence.

The internal deployment of the SANDF will also project a particular image of South Africa to the international community. In most democracies, and as is stipulated in the Defence Review, the defence force can only be deployed internally if a state of emergencies has been declared by Parliament, e.g. in the case of an impending coup or extreme and continuing breakdown of public order that endanger the democratic system. Does South Africa really want to be seen as a state where the police is unable to control violence and crime to a degree that the rule of law can only be upheld by the defence force? This would enforce an image of Africa as a violent region with military states where armed forces fight against the citizens, and it would place South Africa on the same level.

V. Recommendations

The Ceasefire Campaign therefore recommends

1) that the SANDF should not be used to support the police at all except under a State of Emergency (approved by Parliament)

2) that in accordance with (1) above, no further "policing powers" be granted to the SANDF

3) that the retraining and transformation of the police service be "fast-tracked" to make it a true community service

4) that funds be made available to the police for such transformation by reducing the expenditure on Defence

5) that the duty of border control be undertaken by the police, not the SANDF.

We donít want a permanent State of Emergency !