New report reveals reasons behind soldiers actions at start of coronavirus lockdown
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Durban - WITH limited planning time as well
as training, it was inevitable that the
Covid-19 lockdown would pose challenges for law enforcement.
This was according to the South
African Institute for Security Studies
(ISS) who released a report this week
which found that ambiguities in the
regulations needed to be corrected and
guidelines issued on its interpretation.
Since the start of the lockdown
last month, many citizens have complained about unnecessary police and
soldier brutality to people caught wandering the streets.
ISS researcher Johan Burger said the
regulations included the SAPS, metro
police and the South African National
Defence Force (SANDF).
However their ability to enforce the
regulations was a concern.
“Ordinary powers of metro police
are limited to municipal by-laws and
road traffic legislation. The SANDF,
when deployed in co-operation with
the police, is legally allocated all the
powers of a police officer except those
“The only condition is that the soldiers should be appropriately trained
for this purpose,” he said.
Burger said that with about 150 000
SAPS officers available to ensure compliance by nearly 60 million people, in
addition to normal police duties, there
were bound to be challenges.
“The requirements for training,
planning and preparation must have
presented major organisational challenges for the joint forces. Given the
nature and complexities of lockdown,
the addition of new law (the regulations), and the need for joint forces to
enforce the law fairly, it was a huge risk
to deploy officials in this role without
“Some were bound to get it wrong,”
The rapid escalation of efforts by
government to curb the spread of the
virus did not allow for proper planning
and preparation, he said.
“The Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Joints) responsible for
planning and co-ordinating all joint
security force operations has significant experience in major sporting
events, elections and crime-combating
operations. But for these they have
many months to plan and prepare,
something not possible as the pandemic swept the world,” he said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele said on
March 28 that 24 000 SAPS and metro
police officers had been deployed.
They were joined on March 29 by
just over 2 800 soldiers.
Burger said the operational instructions of these joint forces were unclear
but it appeared from the minister’s
briefing they were going to be focused
primarily on patrols and roadblocks.
“The ill-discipline and even criminal conduct by many police officials
and soldiers, including the use of excessive force, has caused a public outcry.
Allegations of unlawful security force
behaviour must be investigated and
results publicly communicated.
Joints should work with the National
Coronavirus Command Council to
correct ambiguities in it.