Defence minister slams soldiers for punishing civilians during lockdown

30 March 2020 - 16:14 By Kgaugelo Masweneng

The defence department has condemned the use of violence on civilians by soldiers deployed to enforce Covid-19 lockdown regulations.

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in a statement that the department had noted allegations of abuse by members of the defence force.

She said a message was sent by President Cyril Ramaphosa – the commander-in-chief of the SANDF – warning the soldiers that they should not use excessive force against citizens, regardless of the level of provocation they may face.

TimesLIVE and HeraldLIVE photographers have witnessed soldiers forcing civilians to, among other things, do push-ups and other forms of physical exercise as part of punishment for breaching the lockdown regulations.

“It would be in the best interest of the SANDF to empower the public about the dangers of the virus, therefore citizens are urged to remain in their homes at all possible times. This will help curb the spread of the virus in our communities.

“We appeal to all people to play a positive role in ensuring that the spread of the virus is curbed,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Meanwhile, national SAPS spokesman Brig Vish Naidoo confirmed that he had seen some of the footage of the incidents.

"We have noted these videos with serious concern but the authenticity of these videos would need to be verified.

"However, judging from what one can see in these videos, such alleged behaviour by security forces is unacceptable which can be neither tolerated nor condoned," he said.

Naidoo added that police brass had "impressed upon our members on the ground to act within the confines of the law when enforcing the Disaster Management Act regulations".

"The regulations clearly outline the actions security forces may enforce/impose on alleged transgressors. The depiction in the circulating videos is definitely not one of those actions," he said.