Cele: We defend people who cannot defend themselves against themselves

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A South African policeman points his pump rifle to disperse a crowd of shoppers in Yeoville, Johannesburg. (Marco Longari, AFP)
A South African policeman points his pump rifle to disperse a crowd of shoppers in Yeoville, Johannesburg. (Marco Longari, AFP)

Police Minister Bheki Cele issued a renewed order to law enforcement agencies on Friday to strongly clamp down on people violating lockdown restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in the country.

The number of people who has tested positive for Covid-19 now stands at 1 462. 

Cele was speaking at a parade in Polokwane, Limpopo, during a visit to monitor adherence to lockdown restrictions in the province.

Increasing violations 

The renewed order comes at a time when reports abound of increasing violations of restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the start of the lockdown a week ago. 

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha also raised concerns about the general disregard of restrictions in the province. He and members of the Covid-19 provincial command council embarked on a monitoring process this week. 

Addressing police, traffic and municipal officers as well as soldiers in Polokwane, Cele described the coronavirus as a "catastrophe" and "calamity".

"When you have an enemy that attacks the world at the same time, then you have a catastrophe. The president instructed us to go and defend the people of South Africa."

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He added the president had also instructed law enforcement agencies to "defend those people who cannot defend themselves against themselves."

Cele said there were people who did not realise the situation presented by the coronavirus was serious. 

He told officers and soldiers: "Be kind when dealing with those people, but don't allow them to run amok. Don't allow them to do as they wish. They must not just gallivant."

Cele strongly warned against the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. The warning follows a ruling by the Western Cape government that cigarettes can be sold if bought with essential items such as food.

"There is no such thing that people will be allowed to buy cigarettes. We spoke to the premier [of the Western Cape] that should we find any of his businesses selling cigarettes, we will shut them down. There's nothing essential about cigarettes."

Fake sanitiser 

In Limpopo, several minibus taxis in Thohoyandou in the Vhembe district were impounded for violating restrictions at the start of the lockdown last week. It was reported last week that "people were going about their business as usual" in the largely rural district.

In Giyani, two national grocery retailers were ordered to close after they were found to be using "fake" sanitiser which was heavily diluted with water. 

The retailers were only allowed to reopen several hours later after proper sanitiser was brought for customers and staff.

WATCH: Life in lockdown: Poverty keeps informal settlements residents from staying home

Mathabatha said in an earlier statement: "The [provincial] command council is concerned about the general disregard and sheer ignorance of basic rules as we battle this pandemic of Covid-19. We are also concerned about traders who continue to open their outlets without necessary permits.

 "We have so far interacted with the police and the army to do their work without fear or favour."

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