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Bheki Cele Says Over 270,000 Have Been So far Arrested for Breaking Lockdown Rules

South Africa - Durban -21 January 2020 - Bheki Cele national minister of police during the media briefing at SAPS Head Quaters in Durban Picture Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

It was gathered that more than 270,000 people were arrested for contravening the lockdown regulations in the past three months, police minister Bheki Cele revealed in parliament.

Reports indicated that of the 276,607 arrested since the declaration of the national state of disaster at the end of March until June 19, 22,815 have paid admission of guilt fines and 199,677 are scheduled to appear in court or pay an admission of guilt fine.

The minister was responding to a question by ANC MP Shahidabibi Shaikh.

Concern was raised about the number of people being kept in SA’s already overcrowded jails as remand detainees because they are not able to afford admission of guilt fines or bail – even though the offences for which they were arrested are very minor.

“At the onset of lockdown level 5, compliance levels improved. As the regulations were enforced, however, the contravention of regulations was still high,” said Cele.

“Increased law enforcement visibility and actions to assert the authority of the state resulted in an improvement in compliance, which was at a very high level at the end of level 5 and throughout level 4.

“The imposition of the curfew during level 4 had a significantly positive effect on compliance with the regulations. The restriction of movement between districts and provinces ensured the confinement of individuals to their places of residence and assisted in curbing crime.

“The ban on the sale of liquor during levels 5 and 4 had a positive effect on levels of compliance and on reduced levels of violent crime.”

The minister said compliance with the regulations deteriorated during level 3, including non-compliance with regulations that are not criminalised, such as wearing masks and social-distancing, increased.

Cele said the reinstatement of the sale of liquor and even the criminalisation of this from Friday to Sunday “has been found to contribute to non-compliance due to behavioural changes when people are intoxicated”.

The minister, who is known for his strong views against alcohol, said there was a marked increase in levels of crime during level 3 compared with levels 4 and 5, when the sale of alcohol was prohibited.

He said common offences during the lockdown included:

  • failure of people to stay confined to their residence (under level 5);
  • failure of non-exempted businesses and entities to cease operations (under levels 4 and 5);
  • convening of gatherings (under level 4); and
  • selling tobacco products other than for export (under level 3).

In reply to a question by ANC MP Tshitereke Matibe, Cele noted that from March 27 to June 22 there had been 49 service complaints against members of Saps for the use of excessive force.

Of these, 36 have been finalised and 20 confirmed as valid – one of which resulted in disciplinary action.

No criminal charges have been initiated in any of the finalised cases.

A total of 16 complaints could not be substantiated based on the information provided by the complainant, while 13 complaints are still under investigation.

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