During Level 5, there were 11 deaths and 280 assaults credited to the police.
SANDF members patrol the streets of Alexandra Township north of Johannesburg, 3 March 2020, on the seventh day of national lockdown. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
The militarisation of lockdown has been described as unfortunate, with experts lamenting the role of law enforcement agencies would at best be remembered for harassment and brute force that has left people either dead or maimed.
Siyasanga Gijana, 28, lost an eye when police enforcing lockdown opened fire when she fetched water.
Thato Masiangoako, researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, said: “The most painful part is that she is black, poor and marginalised.
“This means she will never get justice … chances are she can never afford to pursue civil claims.”
The institute has decried the continued use of inappropriate and deadly force since the Marikana massacre, saying it brought the police into the spotlight with the consistent and blatant disrespect for the law and failure to uphold their constitutional obligation to protect.
The hard lockdown was implemented in March and by June, Minister of Police Bheki Cele acknowledged in parliament that 49 police brutality cases had been reported during that period.
A month earlier, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had reported much higher figures of cases against the police, including 11 deaths, 280 assault complaints and 79 complaints of discharging of an official firearm.
According to Masiangoako, the sad part of the securitisation of the lockdown and accompanying brutality was that those at the receiving end were mostly the poor, marginalised and black people.
“The high and middle income [groups] were able to stock up on necessities before lockdown but the poor were yet to be paid.
“When they came out to buy food they were met with police officers not equipped with communication skills.
“There was a harrowing picture of a policeman aiming a gun at a queuing shoppers…
“You are now forcing them to the very thing they are supposed to avoid … that shows the level of lack of thought and reliance on use of excessive force,” she said.
Masiangoako said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate model for police accountability was “set up for failure” and not entirely independent in that it reported to the minister of police.
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