Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has warned members of the South African National Defence Force against using excessive force during the 21-day national lockdown.
Mapisa-Nqakula was reacting to complaints from irate South Africans who accused soldiers of beating residents in the townships and forcing them to do ‘military-style’ push-ups and squats.
There has also been reports of unbridled brutality at the hands of the soldiers and police, including a man who was shot and killed in Vosloorus in Ekurhuleni.
A number of videos have also surfaced on social media of either the military or police using excessive force against South Africans on the streets.
“I want to strongly reiterate the message delivered by the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF to the deploying of the soldiers to desist from using excessive force against citizens of the country, regardless of the level of provocation they may face,” she said.
“I have since instructed the Chief of the SANDF to monitor the situation on the ground and deal with those members proven to have used excessive or unnecessary force against citizens.”
Mapisa-Nqakula also urged residents to adhere and comply with the lockdown measures that were issued to the public by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The Democratic Alliance has since written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that she uses the power at her disposal in terms of Rule 253(1)(b) of the Rules of the National Assembly to establish an ad hoc committee.
This is to ensure the protection of civil liberties of all South Africans during the lockdown and provide continuous oversight over the national executive authority and organs of state.
The DA said the actions of soldiers and police during the lockdown were unacceptable in a democratic society.
“We cannot allow such heavy-handed authority to go unchecked, and the establishment of accountability measures are key,” said the DA in its letter to Modise.
Police minister Bheki Cele has, however, denied allegations of abuse.
“Wait until you see more force,” said Cele.
Cele said more than 1000 people have been arrested since Friday for violating lockdown rules.
“It is concerning that there are so many people who do not want to comply with regulations”, said Cele.
Meanwhile, the City of Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina has called for calm following the fatal shooting of a civilian in Vosloorus on Sunday, 29 March 2020.
He said the officer involved in the shooting and a security officer who was with him at the time have since been arrested.
The South African Police Service and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate are currently investigating the matter.
“We call upon the residents of Ekurhuleni to remain calm following the fatal shooting in Vosloorus. I wish to reassure everyone that we will not rest until all the facts surrounding this incident are brought to light,” said Masina.
“To our law enforcement officers, we call upon you to uphold your oath to protect and serve the people of Ekurhuleni. This is not a period for defiance but rather a moment that calls for unity of purpose. We must all work together to combat this pandemic and adhere to the regulations on the nation-wide lockdown as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa.”
The national lockdown ends on April 16.