An ‘important purpose of section 34 [of the Constitution] is to guarantee the protection of the judicial process to persons who have disputes that can be resolved by law’ and that the right of access to court is ‘foundational to the stability of an orderly society. It ensures the peaceful, regulated and institutionalised mechanisms to resolve disputes, without resorting to self-help. The right of access to court is a bulwark against vigilantism, and the chaos and anarchy which it causes. Construed in this context of the rule of law and the principle against self-help in particular, access to court is indeed of cardinal importance’.The right guaranteed s34 would be rendered meaningless if court orders could be ignored with impunity:the underlying purposes of the right — and particularly that of avoidance of self-help — would be undermined if litigants could decide which orders they wished to obey and which they wished to ignore.
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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