Coronavirus in SA: WhatsApp line to report abuses by police, military during lockdown launched
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Pretoria - The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Wednesday launched a dedicated WhatsApp line and an email address where members of the public can report acts of assault, abuse or bribery by law-enforcement officers during the current lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
DA leader John Steenhuisen said these platforms will also be used to advise citizens on their rights and to raise and lodge complaints with the relevant authorities and oversight bodies.
“The nation is only six days into this lockdown and we have already seen increased violence at the hands of those who were tasked with protecting and serving us. On Tuesday reports indicated that the police shot two nurses at the Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom and on Monday an Ekurhuleni metro police officer was arrested for allegedly shooting and killing a Vosloorus man while enforcing the lockdown,” said Steenhuisen.
“There are numerous videos on social media showing police and army officers increasingly brutalising and humiliating members of the public. Some South Africans were threatened and assaulted in their own backyards and while standing in line to buy the essentials. This is a gross abuse of the power entrusted to the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).”
He said the WhatsApp number and email address will be monitored by a task team of DA members of Parliament in the security and justice clusters.
“They are experts in their fields and will be able to provide expert advice to the South African public,” said Steenhuisen.
The DA said that by using the WhatsApp number 067 977 9324 or email address [email protected], members of the public can report any acts of assault, abuse or bribery by law-enforcement officers. They can also send the DA their questions regarding their legal rights during the Covid-19 lockdown.
DA leader John Steenhuisen. File photo: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Steenhuisen said there was an “urgent need” for oversight and monitoring of SANDF’s deployment across the country, as well as the police’s conduct.
“South Africa is a constitutional democracy and not a military state. We must adhere to the rule of law, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution at all times. We remind law-enforcement officials that this is a state of disaster, not a state of emergency. The role of the military is to ensure that lockdown measures are enforced while remembering that South Africans do have rights, even in these unprecedented times,” he said.
“These rights have been hard-fought for and must not be so flagrantly disregarded and disrespected by those few in uniforms who misunderstood their mandate.”
The opposition leader said it is important for South Africans to adhere to the lockdown regulations and the party agrees that those who do not comply should face the consequences of their actions within the law.
“However, we strongly condemn the brazen acts of violence, humiliation and degradation committed against our citizens,” said Steenhuisen.
This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated that the decision to put South Africa under lockdown for 21 days was seen as an effective measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19 across the country.
* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page
** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the government's 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999