Pretoria - Three hundred and sixteen police officers have been arrested since a nationwide lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the ministry of police said on Wednesday.
Responding to an enquiry by African News Agency (ANA), Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba said 316 police officers had been arrested for various “Covid-19 related offences”.
“Unfortunately there is no breakdown of the exact offences apart to say the number of employees nabbed were caught contravening disaster management regulations and other offences,” said Themba.
In March, as Covid-19 cases grew across South Africa, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country would enter a countrywide lockdown to curb the spread of infections.
The stringent lockdown, which has since been staggered into lower, relaxed levels, started at midnight on March 26.
At the time, Ramaphosa said the only people exempted from staying indoors during the lockdown were SAPS personnel, the SA National Defence Force, healthcare workers, emergency personnel, security services, and military medical personnel.
He said others that were exempt included workers in the production, distribution of food and basic goods, banking services, water service, power utility service and laboratory services.
Banks, petrol service stations, pharmacies, laboratories, supermarkets and healthcare providers remained open.
The lockdown was accompanied with government regulations that limited public gatherings to 100, a ban on international and inter-provincial travel, and a ban on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.
In May, Cele said the number of cases opened by the police for lockdown regulation violations by citizens had more than doubled, to 230 000, with the Western Province proving the least compliant province.
"At one point, towards the end of April when we were still on level 5, we had about 107 000 cases opened with 118 000 people charged for contravention of the lockdown regulations.
"In just over a month, this number has more than doubled and is almost at 230 000."
Cele said the contraventions included breaches of the ban on alcohol and cigarette trade, failure to confine to place of residence, and gathering illegally.
There had been fewer contraventions of the ban on gatherings than witnessed under level 5, and transport offences had also declined thanks to better compliance with regulations by the minibus taxi industry.
Other offences recorded included cross-border and inter-provincial travel, as well as failure to produce permits for work or travel, or producing fraudulent permits.
Cele said the highest number of arrests occurred in the Western Cape, followed by the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
On Wednesday, the police ministry said that in the spirit of accountability, police officers found on the wrong side of the Covid-19 regulations had been punished.
“The number of arrested officers shows there is a growing culture of accountability in the SAPS and that the police service is taking consequence management very seriously. To date, 246 of these officers are on suspension,” said Themba.
“While the majority of officers are executing their duties diligently during the lockdown, the few who are found on the wrong side of the law are being dealt with, without hesitation.”