SANDF members and police officers enforcing lockdown at Alexandra on the third day of the 21-day lockdown. Bongani Shilubane African News Agency (ANA)
SANDF members and police officers enforcing lockdown at Alexandra on the third day of the 21-day lockdown. Bongani Shilubane African News Agency (ANA)

New report reveals reasons behind soldiers actions at start of coronavirus lockdown

By Mphathi Nxumalo Time of article published Apr 22, 2020

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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

of investigation. 

“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

training.

“Some were bound to get it wrong,”

Burger said. 

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. 

The

Joints should work with the National

Coronavirus Command Council to

correct ambiguities in it.

Daily News

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