Members of the Johannesburg Metro police in Booysens informal settlement in Johannesburg, April 28 2020. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP
Members of the Johannesburg Metro police in Booysens informal settlement in Johannesburg, April 28 2020. Picture: MICHELE SPATARI / AFP

Almost 100 criminal charges have been laid against members of the police  in the first three weeks of SA's lockdown, parliament heard on Wednesday.

The country is in the middle of a national lockdown which has been imposed under a national state of disaster to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Under a state of disaster the SA Police Service (SAPS), with support from  SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and metro police, plays a crucial part in ensuring citizens adhere to regulations gazetted to govern the lockdown. One of the key concerns about enforcement has centred on the abuse of power by law enforcement.  

The numbers were presented in parliament on Wednesday to a joint sitting of the portfolio committee on police and the select committee on security and justice.

Maj Gen Leon Rabie, head of SAPS strategic management, told MPs there were 117 charges in total against government officials, of which 97 charges were against members of the police. The report gave no details of the charges but said the numbers related to incidents between March 27 to April 19.

The presentation to parliament also listed the number of offences related to the lockdown. These included robberies and burglaries of liquor outlets. There is a blanket ban on the sale of alcohol during the lockdown. Seventy-four incidents were recorded between  March 26 and April 16, the committee heard.

Rabie said it would not only bring the police into disrepute if the police were involved with illegal activities or abused their powers, but would also “grossly undermine” the government's effort to curb the spread of the virus.

He said that any contravention of the regulations by SAPS employees were regarded as serious misconduct. In addition to criminal consequences those implicated will also face internal disciplinary proceedings.

He said the biggest threat for the police's resources was a reduced workforce as a result of increased infections.

According to his presentation, 61 police officers had tested positive by last week Friday.

Rabie said in addition to preventive measures being implemented, levels of infection and the impact on staffing levels were constantly being monitored.

The average daily deployment of members of the SAPS, SANDF, metro and traffic officers as well as employees of the department of health who all contributed to aspects of the enforcement of the lockdown was 27,352 people, Rabie said

The SAPS and police minister Bheki Cele are expected to respond to the  committee members questions in writing.

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