More than 20 people were arrested on Friday for contravening the Covid-19 coronavirus disaster regulations.
According to Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo, who was at a roadblock set up by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) on the N1 highway, the number of cars on the road is a cause for concern.
Makhubo said that the roadblocks conducted on the Soweto freeway and in the Sandton area were necessary because “there have been people who have not been heeding the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa, for people to stay home and only to get on the road when necessary”.
Today we thought that we must enforce compliance, he said.
“We are trying to tell South Africans, especially ‘Joburgers’ that we are serious about this and that it is important for them to follow the law and comply with the provisions of the law.”
As the JMPD stopped a large number of travellers on the road, Makhubo said that many excuses were provided.
“We have heard everything from people telling us that their grandparents had died to some medical reasons ... and we even had an individual tell us that he was going to see his girlfriend,” Makhubo said.
In an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus Ramaphosa announced a national shutdown and said that all residents except those providing essential services would have to stay home for at least 21 days.
“We are sending a message that we are not playing because Covid-19 is serious. It is here and when we say lockdown we mean it,” Makhubo said.
“We started in Sandton. There was a lot of compliance there as we saw very few cars. But on the highway here, there were too many cars. We are worried about the number of cars on the road and the permits that people have shown us because some of them are not an essential service.”
“We had to let some people go because they did produce permits, although they are not essential services.”
Asked about what penalties individuals found contravening the act would face Makhubo said that there were different penalties for being on the road and “this is just the beginning”.
“Law enforcement officers will deal with that,” he said.
“The next 15 days are going to be rough. At the moment, Diepkloof Police Station is getting full with people who don’t comply.”
The mayor sternly added: “We are going to get you out there.”
JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar, who was also at the roadblock, said he was concerned about individuals not taking the lockdown as seriously as they should.
“What we have found is that there are many people who are taking chances to get out on to the roads hence we had to have this operation to get people to comply,” he said.