Footage captured of SAPS and SANDF members apparently punishing Soweto residents who were not obeying the lockdown laws has divided opinion among those who’ve seen it.
Some, among them DA member of the Gauteng legislature Makashule Gana, agreed with the approach of making people do squats and pushups in the streets – like a military bootcamp – as “the best way to deal with them”.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen and others on Monday morning, however, provided a counterpoint to some of the mirth being expressed at the footage, with Steenhuisen asking if people would find it so funny if it was happening to a family member.
“History has shown us that it starts with pushups but always end in a more sinister way,” he said.
Constitutional expert Pierre de Vos said the behaviour by the officers was” unlawful and an abuse of power” and that “disciplinary action must be instituted against those involved”.
One social media user who politely disagreed with De Vos that the “situation is bad honestly, I have been home ever since lockdown and there are people who think they can just break the law. Worst of all, the vulnerable communities are the ones who seem to take this situation lightly because some still believe it can only affect people of a certain colour.”
The health minister has tried to tell the country that black people are just as likely to get Covid-19 as anyone else, but videos have nevertheless emerged of people in townships apparently refusing to believe this, arguing it’s only something for white people to worry about.
De Vos answered him: “Some people who think they can just break the law are members of the police and SADF [sic], and those they abuse are inevitably not middle class white suburbanites. One does not enforce the law by breaking it.”
Steenhuisen over the weekend called for the protection of civil liberties during the lockdown. He said there should be continuous oversight over the national executive authority and organs of state, and therefore the DA had written to the speaker of the national assembly to request that she establish an ad hoc committee of the National Assembly to monitor this.
The party cited Rule 253(1)(b) of the rules of the National Assembly that would allow speaker Thandi Modise to so so.
“While the DA has committed its full support to president Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet, we as the official opposition, as well as our fellow opposition parties in the assembly, still have a duty to hold the executive to account,” said Steenhuisen.
“Already this week there have been numerous reports of brutality at the hands of SANDF soldiers deployed across South Africa, with more worrying accounts including allegations of soldiers opening fire on residents, and employing unnecessarily authoritarian and zealous violence and language.”
The party called this behaviour “absolutely unacceptable and deeply worrying” as it showed a government in contempt of the civil liberties afforded to all South Africans in a free and democratic state.
“These are unprecedented times and we need to look at extraordinary measures to ensure that we not only combat Covid-19 and the spread thereof in South Africa, but also have extraordinary measures in place to ensure there is consistent and continual accountability for government.”
The party said Rule 167(g) indicated that a committee could meet in a venue determined by it and proposed that this committee met via online platforms or videoconferencing facilities to respect the conditions of the lockdown and adhere to the principle of social distancing.
“We need to uphold the rule of law and the constitution at all cost, even in this most unprecedented and unusual of times.”