[JURIST] The South African National Assembly [official website], the lower house of the country's parliament, has passed the Prohibition of Mercenary Activity and Regulation of Certain Activities in Areas of Armed Conflict Bill [PDF text], legislation that would prevent South African citizens from serving in foreign armies or security forces abroad without first receiving permission from the South African government. The bill, which still must be approved by the upper house of parliament, the National Council of Provinces [official website], was designed to prevent South Africans from serving as mercenaries in neighboring African countries, but its opponents say that the bill could prevent citizens from pursuing legitimate job opportunities.
South Africa in recent years has acquired a reputation as a base for mercenaries, who according to South African Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota [official profile], work to subvert democracy and "are the scourge of poor areas of the world." Last year, eight men were charged [JURIST report] in South Africa for violating anti-mercenary laws under the Foreign Military Assistance Act [text]. The men were charged after serving time [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe for participating in an alleged coup attempt [BBC backgrounder] against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Mark Thatcher [BBC profile], son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was found to be in violation of South Africa's anti-mercenary law [JURIST report] in connection with the same plot. After agreeing to help investigators, Thatcher's jail sentence was suspended and he was fined [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.