'Don't give us a reason to arrest you' - Cele, as lockdown arrests rise to 2 289

Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Police Minister Bheki Cele.

Police have arrested 2 289 people since the beginning of the lockdown, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced on Thursday evening.

Cele announced this at a media briefing by the inter-ministerial committee in charge of the response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

The minister said most arrests were made in the Western Cape, with 774. The other arrests were 368 in the Free State, 290 in the Northern Cape, 395 in KwaZulu-Natal, 217 in Gauteng, 284 in the Eastern Cape, 225 in North West, 81 in Mpumalanga and 61 in Limpopo.

"All the rules being addressed today [Thursday] must be adhered to. Don't give us a reason to arrest you. We have no issues arresting people if we need to, so don't give us a reason to," he said.

The lockdown regulations were amended on Thursday to allow for people who are in different provinces to travel to bury their loved ones, he said. This, however, can only be done if the person applies for a permit at police stations and the courts.

Cele said he was glad that the regulations were relaxed because of the challenges police had observed at provincial borders, especially on the Western Cape and Eastern Cape border.

"The number 50 hasn't changed. When people request permission to move to attend funerals, they have to understand they might not reach the funeral when the number has exceeded 50," he warned.

Cele also warned provincial governments to refrain from relaxing the regulations of the lockdown without the approval of national government.

'They shouldn't make noise when police pounce'

This was after news emerged that the Western Cape had lifted the ban on the sale of cigarettes.

"The regulations are signed by Minister of Cogta [Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma]. There are no provincial regulations. What is done in Limpopo is expected to be done in Western Cape.

"Businesses shouldn't complain when police implement national regulations. They shouldn't make noise when police pounce."

Cele said he was also glad that government had explained the role of spaza shops during the lockdown.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dlamini-Zuma amended regulations for all spaza shops and informal food traders to operate during the lockdown.

Read more: Lockdown: Spaza shops and informal traders are free to trade

"We are happy that there is clarity on spaza shops. We have asked the commissioner of police to work with spaza shops," Cele said.

Police have also been criticised for their overzealous use of force during the lockdown.

Several videos of police and soldiers using force to enforce the regulations have surfaced on social media. This has led to the DA launching a social media platform for people to convey their complaints of police brutality.

Cele, however, said the number of police complaints had decreased since the start of the lockdown a week ago. He said in the first three days of the lockdown, the ministry had received 26 complaints, adding that the number had gone down to 12 in the last few days, which meant there was "stability".

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