Minister of Police Bheki Cele addressed South Africa this afternoon [May 22], informing the nation on the steps police across the country will take to ensure all lockdown regulations are properly enforced.
“The virus has no feet,” Cele said. “The virus moves with us, so we must stay at home.”
According to the Minister, more than 230 000 contraventions of lockdown regulations have been noted since South Africans have been ordered to stay home. These include various crimes. The most arrests have been made in the Western Cape, followed by the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“Some have been issued with fines, others warnings, and others arrested,” Cele said. “There are many waiting for bail as well.”
He noted that there has been a sharp spike in crime by organised syndicates. These crimes mainly involve the illicit trade of cigarettes and alcohol during lockdown.
“The South African National Defence Force has intercepted the trade of cigarettes at the border,” Cele said. “They have confiscated tobacco coming in from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”
Cele also added that lockdown has resulted in crime decreasing in comparison to 2019. This being said, there are specific crimes where there has been a rise in reports. One of these includes gender-based violence (GBV).
“There are many reports that there has been a 500% increase in GBV,” he said. “Let me clarify that these calls have been received by the GBV hotline, and not cases that have been reported to police.”
Cele encourages all women who are threatened by someone they are in close quarters with during lockdown to make their way to a police station to obtain a protection order.
There have been over 4000 less cases of reported rape since 2019, while cases of attempted murder have also decreased.
“Police can only assist when a crime is reported,” he said.
The Minister also touched on the increasing number of reports in police brutality during lockdown.
“I have been notified of increased reports of police brutality,” Cele said. “By law, police are required to use necessary force if a suspect is resisting arrest. The force used by police in arrests is relative to the resistance of the suspect. There is only relative force.”
He made an example of a police officer who was recently shot when responding to a gender-based violence case. “The officer was shot, a young man, when he went to assist the woman who called. Our police will not be sacrificial lambs.”
According to Cele, 611 South African Police Service (SAPS) officers have tested positive for COVID-19 during the lockdown period. Of these, 101 officers have recovered. Approximately 441 of the positive cases have originated in the Western Cape.
“As soon as a SAPS employee is positive, everyone in the building is screened and tested,” he said. “The building is decontaminated and sanitised, and no one is allowed back for between 12 and 48 hours after. more than 19 stations in Cape Town have been closed twice or more during lockdown.”
In speaking on the notable decrease in roadblocks, Cele had the following to say: “More businesses are open, so there are more people moving around. While the number of roadblocks have decreased, there are more patrols in suburbs and other areas. There will still be interprovincial roadblocks, and these will still be strictly enforced.”
The Minister also said that illegal cigarette trade has been something South Africa has been dealing with for a long time, and while there is an increase during lockdown, the problem is not caused by lockdown.