SANDF says it has taken note of the allegations.
The security forces’ excessive use of power during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s well-intended 21-day coronavirus lockdown, which on Sunday claimed South Africa’s first fatality in Ekurhuleni’s Vosloorus township, has fuelled criticism.
In an incident under investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), said to have taken place during enforcement of government’s lockdown regulations, Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) officers found people allegedly drinking liquor in a township tavern.
Police claimed they were fired on when they tried to effect an arrest. They retaliated with live ammunition, which led to a man’s death and children aged five, six and 11 being injured.
A 34-year-old EMPD officer and a 45-year-old civilian, believed to be a private security officer, have been arrested and will today appear in the Boksburg Regional Court on charges of murder and attempted murder.
While Ramaphosa’s lockdown has garnered widespread support, the Vosloorus incident and the continued heavy-handedness of the police and the army are expected to harden the public’s attitude towards them.
Other measures the police and soldiers have taken included the abuse of people apprehended for not adhering to regulations, with punishments meted out, including beatings and being forced to do hard physical exercise such as push-ups and squats.
In her reaction, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said: “They (soldiers) are out to protect South Africans and not to abuse them.”
SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the department of defence had noted the various allegations of abuse by members of SANDF.
“The minister strongly reiterates the message delivered by the commander-in-chief of the SANDF to the soldiers to desist from using excessive force against citizens of the country, regardless of the level of provocation they may face.
“The minister has instructed the chief of the SANDF to monitor the situation on the ground and deal with those members proven to have used excessive force.”
Dlamini said Mapisa-Nqakula also called on citizens “to adhere to lockdown regulations and desist from provoking any law enforcement official”.
Civil society organisations, experts and some high-profile politicians have also condemned acts abuses by the security forces. Constitutional law expert Paul Hoffman of Accountability Now said: “To win the trust of people, soldiers should not emerge in this period of lockdown as bullies.”
While Democratic Alliance (DA) interim leader John Steenhuisen condemned punishment in the form of prolonged physical exercise, DA Gauteng legislature member Makashule Gana described it as “the best way to deal with them”. But Steenhuisen said: “History has shown us it starts with push-ups, but always ends in a more sinister way.”
Freeman Bhengu of the Sisonke Peoples Forum said the organisation condemned “the apartheid-style treatment of our people”. –
Starts with pushups and ends in more sinister way