The heavy-handed approach by police and the military in enforcing lockdown regulations have been condemned by people’s advocacy organisation Right2Know and they encourage citizens not to shy away from recording abuses of power by police officers during lockdown.
Police and military brutality have been under the spotlight since the first weekend after the nation-wide lockdown came into effect. This despite President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plea for law enforcement officers to enforce regulations “with compassion. To do so with great understanding. To do so with respect for the people of our country. To do so with humility as well”. The first weekend allegedly saw three civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
Right2Know have come out to affirm people’s constitutional right to film and record incidents, warning the police not to prevent the public from exercising their right.
“Our role is to ensure a reduction in police and security forces’ repression as well as enable the culture of accountability by the police and security forces,” Right2Know spokesperson Thami Nkosi tells DRUM.
“[People] have a right to record any abuse as it happens, take videos and pictures of such incidences as proof of these happening. There are oversight bodies that are meant to look into the conduct of our police and security forces, these oversight bodies are put in place to attend to complaints lodged against the security forces and the police.” These are the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the Military Ombud.
During a media briefing yesterday, defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula decried the latest incident in which an Alexandra resident was allegedly killed by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). The deceased, Collins Khoza, was allegedly beaten to death by soldiers for drinking in a yard with a friend last Friday. Mapisa-Nqakula said the law will take its course but that they were “unable to comment at this point what the next [course] of action is going to be”.
Numerous coalitions have sprouted up around the country as citizens deal with the knock-on effects of the viral pandemic. Several civil society organisations have come together to establish the C19 People’s Coalition to ensure that the national response to the pandemic is “effective, just, and meets the needs of the most marginal”.
Lawyers for Human Rights are part of the coalition. Their acting national director, Michael Clements, says the legal coalition within the People’s Coalition is advocating for zero force in how law enforcement implements regulations during this lockdown.
“Force should absolutely be avoided unless it is strictly necessary and then a minimum amount of force must be used. We are hopeful that this will ultimately be adopted in an amendment to the regulation,” she says. She also encourages citizens who’ve encountered police brutality during this time to contact their hotline on 066-076-8845.