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The flagrant violation of lockdown rules in townships has emerged as a serious concern for security forces as jitters grew over the payment of social grants to millions of people starting tomorrow.
The long queues at shopping outlets, where social distancing precautions were not being observed, were also cause for concern, with suggestions that there should be a heavier presence of police and soldiers in townships to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Gauteng MEC for health Bandile Masuku said they had raised concerns with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the police regarding their inadequate presence in the townships on the first day of the lockdown, and had been assured reinforcements would be made.
“We are not happy with the number of soldiers and police.
The enforcement was not done, and that is the reason why we took a decision that we will also seek help from the police forums and the public patrollers,” he said.
Masuku appealed to residents to follow lockdown regulations. At the time of going to press, 1187 people had tested positive for the virus.
South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) spokesman Paseka Letsatsi said they had put measures in place to ensure compliance with regulations of the lockdown when pensions and disability grants are paid tomorrow and Tuesday, with other grants to be paid from Wednesday.
“There was an engagement between Sassa and merchants, together with the banks and these stakeholders have confirmed that they will implement all measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during paydays – like usage of sanitisers and observing social distance,” he said.
“We await the confirmation from the SANDF of their help during these days as Sassa and [post office] staff members are not trained to do crowd management.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa was spurred into declaring a lockdown after his adviser, Olive Shisana, warned a million people could be infected within weeks if drastic action was not taken.
In a presentation that emerged earlier in the week, when there were 240 coronavirus cases on record, Shisana said: “Given the exponential growth of the epidemic, the actual number of cases is probably much higher and is likely to already be in the thousands. If left unchecked, more than a million cases could occur within weeks.”
A senior official in the Presidency said soldiers were careful not to be heavy handed and evoke memories of the state of emergency of the 1980s. But he raised concerns about the lack of compliance in the townships.
“It is a behavioural issue. The big question is: what if the curve doesn’t come down [after the lockdown]? We must prevent this, otherwise we will go into the state of emergency.”
Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said yesterday they were struggling to get access to densely populated areas such as informal settlements to provide water and sanitation. “We need to be able to convince the people who live in informal settlements that we would need to have a way of getting into the informal settlements and provide them with the necessary sanitation. We would like to disinfect them on a regular basis. It is not possible right now to drive into those areas,” she said.