The 20-year-old Western Cape man allegedly seen on national television wearing an item of the uniform of the armed forces of the Republic of South Africa without authorisation has been arrested.
The SANDF said the “arrested person” was released on a warning and will appear before the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
“The SANDF uniforms and related items are registered for use solely by regular force, reserve force and honorary members of the SANDF in execution of their duties as stipulated in the SA constitution and civilians/non-members of the country’s military are prohibited by law to wear such uniforms,” warned the SANDF in a statement on Wednesday.
Although they didn’t name him directly in their latest statement, it was already established through an earlier statement that the person in question was an EFF student leader who had appeared on television wearing an SANDF camouflage shirt and red beret on Monday.
In a short statement, the SANDF had said the “young man” who was interviewed on television was “not an SANDF member”.
Aseza Mayaphi is an EFF student command secretary at the University of the Western Cape, and was interviewed on eNCA while wearing the outfit.
Mayaphi was being interviewed about the EFF’s “Sizofunda ngenkani” campaign, which is about ensuring that students have access to tertiary institutions.
In a short statement, the SANDF said the “young man” who was interviewed on television was “not a SANDF member”.
“The SANDF further reiterates that wearing the SANDF uniform when you are not a SANDF member is a punishable offence and anyone who is caught committing this illegal act will be prosecuted,” said SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.
In the past, the EFF has worn military-style clothing that isn’t an exact copy of any SANDF design.
Their show of force in November with armed members in camouflage gear concerned some, but the law is unclear on political parties’ and their private militias, such as the EFF’s camo wearers and the ANC’s Umkhonto weSizwe.
The SANDF said last year it was concerned about the law being “quiet” on whether persons other than the military can wear camouflage uniforms resembling that of a military.
A row of armed EFF men dressed in near-military regalia were seen outside the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture when Minister Pravin Gordhan was testifying.
While the group was ostensibly a private security detail protecting party leader Julius Malema during his address outside the Parktown venue, their presence – and especially their open carrying of firearms – sparked the Democratic Alliance’s decision to ask Police Minister Bheki Cele to confirm its legality.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said while it was concerning that a growing number of people, even under the auspices of private security, were dressing in camouflage uniforms, the law was not strict enough regarding what constitutes military regalia.
The Defence Act of 2002 merely refers to the SANDF camouflage uniform, which is registered by military personnel.
“According to the law, civilians are not allowed to wear camouflage, but it is becoming fashionable to dress like the military, and the law is quiet on that,” Mgobozi said.
The DA’s shadow police minister, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said at the time that there was concern over the message and behaviour of the EFF and its leadership pertaining to weapons and war talk. She was referring to an incident last year when Malema was caught on video firing a semi-automatic firearm on stage at a rally in East London.
Kohler Barnard previously complained about Malema’s use of state-funded private security in parliament. But she wanted clarity from Cele on whether the individuals at the EFF’s demonstration were authorised to wear such uniforms and – more importantly – carry what she suspected were automatic firearms. Only registered security personnel are permitted by law to openly carry weapons.
“It’s also so bizarre that he is being guarded by security personnel whose uniform was strangely reminiscent of the president’s security detail, which comprises of members of the SANDF.”
– Background reporting, Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni