Lockdown: Ramaphosa calls for compassion from officers in a time of fear
That is the message the government has been driving in the lead up to today’s unprecedented 21-day lockdown as it tries to stop the spread of Covid-19 - a virus that has infected nearly 1000 South Africans, though with no deaths as of yesterday.
“We’re deadly serious about saving lives. And those who want to take chances, those who want to do wrong things, must meet the wrath of the South African state,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in a rousing address to the SAPS and the SANDF.
He briefed the officers on what was expected of them.
The police and the army will from today play an important role in supporting and enforcing the nation’s compliance with the restriction of movement of people under the National State of Disaster and lockdown with the majority of the population instructed to stay at home.
Only essential services and personnel will be operational.
All religious, cultural, sporting, entertainment, recreational, exhibition, organisational or related activities have been banned from taking place in the next 21 days.
A ban has also been placed on the sale of alcohol and non-essential movement, with all restaurants and shopping centres forced to close, with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies.
South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases yesterday rose to 927, a 218 spike in the number of cases reported only the day before.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said Gauteng recorded 409 confirmed cases, followed by the Western Cape with 229 cases.
KwaZulu-Natal has 134 confirmed cases, while the Free State has 49.
The North West province has five cases, while Mpumalanga has nine. Limpopo has six cases, the Eastern Cape has five, and the Northern Cape only has two confirmed cases.
There are 79 cases unallocated to a province.
“Psychologically our people are now badly affected because they fear whether they could get the virus, they fear they will lose their income, they fear they will lose their jobs, they fear they will not have enough food, they fear getting sick in their homes without medication and not be able to go to the clinic or hospital,” Ramaphosa said.
“And with those fears, you are expected as the police officers of the Democratic Republic of South Africa to have compassion, understanding, to be able to give help and assistance.”
Ramaphosa visited the SAPS College in Pretoria before addressing the SANDF at the Doornkop Army Base in Johannesburg.
The SANDF received a donation of medical protective gear, including protective goggles and face and nose masks from the People’s Republic of China’s armed forces.
“This is the time when the police in our country are expected to provide a service to the people of South Africa.
“I want you to have this notion of going out to save lives and if you know you are going to save lives, you will know that you must be supportive, you must help, assist, advise, guide and you must lead the way. That is precisely what we expect.
“Of course, there will be those who will want to take chances, those who will deliberately want to challenge the state.
“For those, I have the clear message: this is not the time to play with fire, this is not the time to play with the people of South Africa.
“I say this knowing very well that the people of our country in the main are law abiding and this time it is going to be at an even higher level because we are talking about saving lives.”
He said the officers and army were part of a global task force.
“The whole world is involved in what you are doing.
“Let’s make sure we as a police service do not do anything that is going to violate the rights of our people by mistake or unintentionally, let us do right by the people of South Africa.
“This is the hour, this is the moment, that you over the years trained for. You were not only trained to fight crime, but to save lives. We never knew that we would be at a moment like this, but that moment is here now. Let us serve (the people) with dignity and integrity,” he said.
Ramaphosa committed to joining the army on their patrols. The Presidency confirmed that Ramaphosa tested negative for Covid-19.
“The president submitted for testing as a precautionary measure upon the advice of his physicians on Tuesday and received his results last night (Wednesday).
"The Presidency has deemed it necessary to make the test results public to reassure the nation that the president is in good health and continues with his duties,” said the Presidency.
Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said: “Three residents are currently admitted to hospital as a result of this virus. I want to confirm that these are only confirmed laboratory cases.
"There are likely many more people who have the virus and who are not yet showing symptoms.
“That is why this lockdown is so important, and why staying home is our strongest weapon against it. We have developed tented screening facilities to add alternative infrastructure.
"We are also working to develop acute facilities in existing wards for Covid-19 patients and alternative isolation facilities, for patients who cannot do this at home.”