Police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA
Police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: NTSWE MOKOENA

A total of 55 people were arrested for breaking regulations on the first day of SA’s 21-day lockdown, police minister Bheki Cele said on Friday evening.

The lockdown began at midnight on Thursday and saw the SA Police Service, metro police officers and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed across the country to enforce it.

While the first day of the lockdown, which was enforced to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, was seen to be relatively successful, there were some glitches, including in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra where life appeared to continue as normal.

The first day also saw the first Covid-19 related deaths, while infections climbed to 1,170.

Cele said the 172 roadblocks held across the country on Friday were manned by a total of about 24,000 officials. He described the first day as a “success”, with a number of South Africans informing the police when people were breaking the rules.

Cele said of the 55 people who were arrested, five were in the Free State and 20 in Gauteng, with six of these in Alexandra. Seven people were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal, 10 in Limpopo, 11 in the North West and two in the Western Cape.

Cele said those arrested were doing exactly what they were told not to, such as partying and drinking.

“What is happening here is not a war against any citizen in SA, but is against this enemy called coronavirus. Whoever is breaking the law is joining the enemy against the people of SA. We are there to make sure we defend the people of SA, including those who break the law themselves,” Cele said.

Minister of defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula emphasised that the armed forces were there to support the police in enforcing the lockdown which was implemented under the auspices of a national state of disaster.

She said while a letter to parliament from President Cyril Ramaphosa referred to the deployment of about 3,000 soldiers, not all were out in the field yet, with some still at military bases awaiting instruction.

Mapisa-Nqakula also addressed the furore about Ramaphosa wearing camouflage while addressing soldiers on Thursday evening as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. She said there was nothing wrong with it.