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DA calls for investigation into 'gross violations' by soldiers policing lockdown

30 March 2020 - 13:02 By Andisiwe Makinana
Soldiers patrol the Cape Flats as part of a previous exercise to clamp down on spiralling crime in the area.
Soldiers patrol the Cape Flats as part of a previous exercise to clamp down on spiralling crime in the area.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

The DA is calling on military ombudsman Gen Vusi Masondo to investigate alleged gross violations of the military mandate and bill of rights by members of the defence force.

DA MP Kobus Marais condemned videos being circulated on social media purportedly showing soldiers forcing civilians, who allegedly failed to abide by lockdown regulations, to do squats and push-ups.

“There are also videos emerging of SANDF members physically abusing people who allegedly did not abide by the regulations,” said Marais on Monday. “This behaviour is disgusting and the DA condemns it in the strongest terms,” he said.

After watching the videos, his party wrote to Masondo to request an independent investigation, as the actions would amount to a gross violation of the military’s mandate and the bill of rights.

Marais said he had also engaged with the acting chief of the army, Maj-Gen MJ de Goede, who confirmed that the matter had been registered for investigation.

“We trust that this investigation will be transparent and that the SANDF and SAPS members involved will be held fully accountable for their deplorable behaviour.

“While we agree that those who do not comply with the lockdown regulations should face the consequences for their actions, in accordance to the lockdown regulations, we condemn any act which seeks to humiliate and degrade citizens,” said Marais.

South Africa's police minister, Bheki Cele, joined members of the SA National Defence force (SANDF) and SA Police Service (SAPS) in Khayelitsha on March 28 2020 to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Several people were arrested for breaking the country's lockdown rules during the operation.

He said the DA had written to defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

He noted that SA was a constitutional democracy, not a military state, and that despite the country being in an unprecedented period in its democratic history, the rule of law, the bill of rights and the constitution had to be adhered to.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee of the National Assembly which, he said, could provide continuous oversight over the national executive authority, organs of state and ensure the protection of the civil liberties of South Africans during the lockdown.

Steenhuisen wrote to National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise asking that she establish such an ad hoc committee.

“There have been numerous worrying reports these past three days of brutality at the hands of the SANDF and police, including instances of shots being fired at civilians and even a report of a man being shot and killed in Vosloorus.

“These actions are unacceptable in our democracy. We cannot allow such heavy-handed authority to go unchecked, and the establishment of accountability measures are key,” said Steenhuisen.

On March 26 2020, is the start of a new period of uncertainty as South Africans adapt to life under a nationwide lockdown in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are some of the answers to your 'leaving home' questions.