Police Minister Bheki Cele has said that five members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) have been “brutally” killed during the lockdown.
Cele was on Thursday briefing the media on levels of compliance and adherence to Covid-19 regulations.
Some were shot, while others were stabbed, the minister said, adding that in one incident a young police officer was shot and killed while responding to an incident of domestic violence in Sandton, Gauteng.
“We shall not call the police to be sacrificial lambs,” Cele said.
The minister said the police have received complaints about the heavy-handedness of its members when enforcing lockdown regulations, but said that officers do know and are constantly reminded about the SAPS code of conduct, which stipulates what the police can and cannot do.
He said SAPS structures are available where police brutality can be reported and that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is there for “oversight”.
The minister said police that are found guilty are accordingly reprimanded.
He called for members of the public to report acts of police brutality to relevant SAPS structures and others, such as organisations that monitor human rights.
In response to a media question relating to criticism by Judge Hans Fabricius on Cele’s comments and the behaviour of police officers when enforcing lockdown regulations, Cele said he has not made “any illegal statements”.
Judge Fabricius’ criticism of Cele’s comments came when he was handing down a ruling in favour of the family of Collins Khosa who had launched an urgent application after he was beaten to death allegedly by members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in Alexandra, Johannesburg, in March.
GroundUp reported that with regards to Cele’s comment that “SAPS will destroy the infrastructure where liquor is sold”, the judge said the minister “was being extremely irresponsible and would have had no way of knowing or ensuring that SAPS members would not take these comments literally or seriously”.
Cele said as a “product of the struggle of these human rights” he would not undermine the rights of others.
The minister said when members of the SAPS are given their instructions they are always reminded that they serve under the country’s Constitution and a “culture of human rights”.
He explained that according to the Criminal Procedure Act Section 49, police are permitted to use force in carrying out arrests, however, he clarified that an officer’s response should be proportional to the situation.
“By the way, that law, Section 49, even instructs the arrestor, the police, to use deadly force, these are the words, these are the words in the law, deadly force, if the life of a citizen or the life of the arrestor is in danger, use the deadly force,” Cele said.
The minister said he has never called on the police “to be brutal” and break the law.
In some situations police find themselves under attack and have to defend themselves, the minister said.