Editorial: SANDF incident an abuse of power

The bizarre and potentially dangerous incident which saw truckloads of soldiers, armed to the teeth, storming the Port Elizabeth city centre last week in an inexplicable show of force cannot be left unchallenged.

Onlookers were stunned on Friday as members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) descended on City Hall. Without warning, they began to off-load furniture belonging to a woman who had been evicted from the army base in Forest Hill.

It has since emerged that the eviction of the mother and her two children is part of a national drive by the defence force to evict people whom it believes should not be living in army bases around the country.

It is important to note that the eviction itself is a matter between the army and the tenants concerned. However, like any responsible citizen of this country the SANDF must implement such evictions within the law.

So far there is no evidence to suggest that correct and lawful processes were followed in evicting this family.

Further, the legality of the conduct of soldiers who were at City Hall is highly questionable. We witnessed uniformed armed forces, whose duty is to protect the Republic, waving machine guns, damaging public property and intimidating innocent civilians on South African soil.

This bares all the hallmarks of a force that abused its power and – as acting city manager Johann Mettler suggested on Friday – a government breaking the law.

This arguably formed the basis of the order granted by the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday afternoon which compelled the military to return the furniture to the army base immediately.

Yet in a further display of arrogance, the SANDF appeared to ignore the court order and its team only returned to fetch the goods the next day.

We welcome the investigation by the defence force into the incident.

Such an investigation must reveal not only who gave the order to dump the furniture at City Hall, but whether army personnel acted lawfully in their execution of this peculiar order. Those who are found to have abused power have no place in our armed forces.

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