With South Africa close to completing its second month of lockdown, and with Level 3 in view, restrictions on our civil liberties remain in place.
There calls for a few rogue cops who have let the side down with a particular focus on those in KwaZuluNatal.
Sharon Hoosen is the DA’s KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety. She says that officers in the province have shown a ‘blatant disregard’ for individuals, and her claims are backed up by IPID’s recently-published figures. The police regulatory body has confirmed that assault cases against law enforcement issues shot-up during lockdown. The data speaks for itself, and even incidents of ‘torture’ are on the rise:
- May 2020 has seen an increase of 95% in assault cases compared to May 2019 (41 in 2019 and 80 in 2020).
- April 2020 has seen an increase of 41.6% in assault cases compared to April 2019 (28 in 2019 and 48 in 2020).
- Figures for officers accused of torture also increased in March and May of this year.
According to Hoosen, the rise in these cases can be put down to a poor ‘interpretation’ of lockdown powers granted to SAPS officers in March. The politician is fuming with those who believe they have an ‘ultimate mandate’:
“These figures reaffirm our concerns when it comes to the heavy-handedness of some law enforcement officers while conducting their duties during lockdown. It is increasingly clear that some law enforcement officers believe that they have the ultimate mandate and that they can simply disregard an individual’s rights.”
“In some instances, officers failed to interpret regulations correctly and ended up in altercations with civilians, who were then arrested and charged. It is little wonder that KZN communities have taken to social media, using various platforms to ensure oppressive force is highly publicised. It’s painted a damning picture of SAPS.”
On May 15, at least four police officers in Meqheleng, in Free State province, beat Journalist Paul Nthoba, the owner and editor of the weekly Mohokare News local newspaper, who had photographed them while they were on patrol enforcing the area’s COVID-19 lockdown, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
The officers later charged Nthoba with obstructing law enforcement under a COVID-19 regulation of the Disaster Management Act of 2002, he said. If convicted under that law, Nthoba could face a fine and up to six months in prison.