Gauteng committee to keep a beady eye on lockdown law enforcers

Gauteng committee to keep a beady eye on lockdown law enforcers

The police commissioner has sent out fresh, detailed guidelines on how SAPS and municipal police must conduct themselves after complaints of torture, excessive force, inhuman treatment and punishment have come to the fore during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

The meeting heard of allegations ranging from excessive use of force, assault, murder and bribery as reported by the media.

After cases of abuse of power, including alleged murder, assault and bribery involving law enforcement agencies increased during the lockdown, the Portfolio Committee on Community Safety in Gauteng is to tighten its oversight duties of the work of the law enforcers and will monitor compliance by citizens.

Chair Mapiti Matsena said the committee planned unannounced oversight visits at places where the law enforcement agencies were in operation to enforce compliance with lockdown regulations, including at roadblocks, police raids involving the illicit sale of alcohol and cigarettes and general compliance by businesses.

“This decision has been necessitated by the perception that some citizens were beginning to undermine lockdown regulations, as evident in the high number of reported cases of breach of regulations,” Matsena said after the committee’s first virtual meeting on Thursday.

This coincided with Police Minister Bheki Cele reporting that police had confiscated large amounts of alcohol and illicit cigarettes and had arrested a number of suspects.

Cele denied there was a “huge sale” of cigarettes and alcohol during lockdown but confirmed that there were incidents.

The minister stressed that illicit cigarettes had been a problem in SA for years.

Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela told the committee that 37,541 cases had been reported since the announcement of the lockdown.

There had been a decrease of 32.1% (from 4,787 to 3,248) in reported cases of domestic violence compared to the same period last year.

The committee commended the security forces for their swift action in arresting 41,722 suspects, but condemned the alleged abuse of power by authorities in the course of enforcing regulations.

The meeting heard of allegations ranging from excessive use of force, assault, murder and bribery as reported by the media.

This exacerbated the need for the committee to implement stringent measures in monitoring law enforcement authorities.

“The committee is of the view that such incidents create a negative perception around the good work that the authorities are performing and the committee’s monitoring measures might assist in ensuring that there is a perception of diligence and competence in the work of authorities as they enforce lockdown regulations,” Matsena said.

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