We’ve all seen them by now, cooped up as we are in our homes with only television and social media to distract us: mobile phone video clips of soldiers, ostensibily deployed to SA’s townships to support police in enforcing the coronavirus lockdown, abusing people’s basic human rights with apparent impunity.

Footage of soldiers and police officers beating people or forcing them at gunpoint to perform strenuous and humiliating exercises as “punishment” for leaving their homes, apparently in violation of the lockdown rules, has spread like wildfire on social media. And rather than being condemned by the authorities, as might be expected in a constitutional democracy, all too many people who should know better, especially given SA’s authoritarian past, have cheered the abusers on...

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