[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.
SANDU has noted recent concerns expressed by legal experts in the media on the deployment of soldiers in civilian areas and the possible unlawfulness thereof.
The explanation provided by the Department of Defence which sought to justify the legality of these deployments based on a decade old open ended proclamation, by a president not even currently in office, begs belief. This dubious explanation only serves to strengthen the concerns already raised.
The last thing that is needed is that the South African public get the notion that soldiers deployed in civilian areas, to do what is essentially police work, is an acceptable norm and way of governance or that soldiers are deployable without stringent regard for constitutional imperatives. SANDU has consulted its legal team on this issue and is convinced that the current deployments, if based on the reasons offered by the Department, are in all probability authorized in contravention of the Constitution and thus unlawful.
It is not SANDU’s place to direct , criticize or opine on operations conducted by the SANDF per se. The only concern it has as a Military Trade Union is that soldiers, if indeed unlawfully deployed, are at risk of attracting legal liability which they would normally escape were the deployments lawful. It is further of general concern that apparently disregard for the Constitution is considered acceptable in certain circumstances. This goes against the very substance of SANDU as an organization which has always fought for the constitutional rights of its members.
In view of the above facts SANDU has decided to urgently submit a complaint to the office of the Public Protector in order to have a pronouncement made on the legality of the deployments on the basis offered by the Department itself.
NATIONAL SECRETARY: SANDU
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