“Under the guise of protests and looting…  attacks on our country are looking more and more like an insurgency, making the need for military support seem obvious.”

By Cheryllyn Dudley

Law enforcement, the protection of society and criminal justice issues continue to loom large in South Africa, only this time they have our absolute attention, all but eclipsing even our COVID19 concerns. I am tempted to say our one enemy may well have overstepped the mark once again, as there is nothing like a common enemy for inspiring unity.

Of course nothing has been left to our imagination as our relentless crime busters, the media, keep us informed about realities on the ground and link us to the facts and the opinions of those they hope will shed some light on the situation. Government and law enforcement, who have traditionally had a tense relationship with the media, have made clear their appreciation for the brave and excellent efforts of many journalists.


If we were not paying attention or listening before, we are now!  I decided early in my Christian walk that it is a good idea to try and hear what God is trying to tell us before He resorts to more graphic explanations.  I am thinking once again of the idea that there must be a better way – a way in which we can organise ourselves as society so as to value each other in a way that does not leave room for having to choose between crime and survival or self hatred.


As things stand, calls for the deployment of the Defence Force have found traction despite governments obvious caution in this regard, and now calls for a state of emergency are being amplified left, right, and centre.

The official ANC government’s reluctance to implement both these measures is understandable as the strategy of those opposing government is to frame the narrative in a manner that suggests the ‘Ramaphosa administration’ has turned to apartheid tactics to hold power.  While law and order is crucial, politicians do have to consider the end game.

Having been asked what difference a ‘State of Emergency’ would make I will try to sum up my take on it as briefly as possible. Firstly it allows emergency budgets to be spent and secondly it provides better protection for combined forces to use force and for people to be detained without trial if necessary.  Of course there would be parliamentary oversight but our government is all too aware of the intentional and unintentional abuses that can result.

The mandate of the police service is to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law. Police however, whether on their own or with the defence force, cannot protect South Africa if the people do not respect this constitutional authority.  In fact all spheres of government and all organs of state carry a constitutional mandate to secure the well-being of the people of the Republic. So the words “co-operation with SAPS” and “support of any department of state” are used with regard to military deployment.

Whether or not the deployment of the Defence force will make a difference only time will tell, but I will explain a bit about the constraints as I understand them and then simply choose to be hopeful.

Crime prevention as reflected in the National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS) and the White Paper on Safety and Security, relies on the police, the military, intelligence services and the private sector;  so the police have an important but not exclusive role in strategic prevention of crime.

Violent crime in South Africa has had a negative impact on society and economic growth and although protests have at times dissolved into destruction of property and looting, it has been nothing like the well-organised operations going down in KZN,  Gauteng and some other provinces currently.  Under the guise of protests and looting these attacks on our country are looking more and more like an insurgency, making the need for military support seem obvious.

For military intervention to succeed, the support of most South Africans is essential and this we know to be a challenge for a majority of people in South Africa who equate authority, police and military interventions with abuse and subjugation. As we have witnessed, the impact of this should not be underestimated.

The primary object of the defence force is to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force”.  Despite no constitutional mention of a secondary function Schedule 6 does refer to military service: in the preservation of life, health or property; in the provision or maintenance of essential services; in upholding of law and order in the Republic in co-operation with the South African Police Service under circumstances set out in law where the Police Service is unable to maintain law and order on its own; and in support of any department of state for the purpose of socio- economic upliftment.


THE SANDF strategy for the protection of the state and its people is clear and based on political, economic and military co-operation with other states; the prevention, management and resolution of conflict through non-violent means; and the use or threat of force as a measure of last resort.

Government’s preferred and primary course of action is to prevent conflict and war. South Africa will therefore only turn to military means when deterrence and non-violent strategies have failed.  The ruling party is of course painfully aware of the results of allowing the apartheid SANDF to become involved in political and internal stability matters and the  enemies of the present government know this,  and are trying to use it to their advantage.

The military command structure of SANDF, has had to consider and better prepare for its role in shaping the conditions of peace and stability on the continent but has clearly given too little thought and budget to peace and security in the context of civil unrest and insurgencies within our borders.


It is at times like these that we realise just how young our democracy still is.  And how much we need to NOT take our democracy or each other for granted.

The protesters, the looters, the property owners, the police, the soldiers, the politicians on all sides and government, are ALL the very people Jesus died for. He knows what it will take to break the chains of selfish ambition, entitlement, hatred and violence over our country.  He tells us to guard our hearts and that we can’t fight hatred with hatred – it will take unconditional love.


  • seeks to serve, preserve and bless, making society as ‘just’ as possible;
  • measures political systems by the quality of justice secured for the poorest of the poor and weakest of the weak;
  • seeks ways to work with whatever political leadership we have;
  • does not see one leader as all good and another as all bad;
  • looks for ways to move towards redemptive restitution and restorative justice.

Lord, help us to:

  • hold our idealism and pragmatism in tension;
  • humble ourselves and choose love;
  • remember our goal is not to perfect the world or nation, but to offer God’s perspective, a better way, and allow society a choice;
  • be sensitive to what you see as injustice;
  • work toward a more just society and a better future for all;
  • find ways to ensure unemployed and underemployed people do not feel less or excluded from society.

Lord, please bless, protect and guide

  • the Police;
  • the soldiers;
  • the people of SA; and
  • the government.


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