Police officers and members of the SANDF patrol the streets in Alexandra. Picture: ALON SKUY
Police officers and members of the SANDF patrol the streets in Alexandra. Picture: ALON SKUY

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula would seem to be quite enjoying the state of disaster in SA. He gets to post endless pictures of himself on Twitter, being sure to tell the nation he’s "working". And while one may appreciate the harmless, if juvenile, pleasure he seems to derive from a "for-realsies" crisis, the response of some of his fellow cabinet ministers to the coronavirus lockdown has been more disconcerting.

Take defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who thought she’d allay our fears about abuse of power by saying the armed forces would resort to "skop, skiet and donder" — against civilians, one presumes — only "if circumstances determine that". Chillingly, she added: "For now, we’re a constitutional democracy …"

And police minister Bheki Cele, asked about the heavy-handed police response just hours into the lockdown, reportedly said: "Wait until you see more force."

So it’s no surprise, given the combative rhetoric of their political overlords, that SA’s armed forces are playing fast and loose with individual rights and the bounds of the constitution.

It’s a far cry from the restraint President Cyril Ramaphosa urged. Of equal concern, of course, is that he hasn’t reined in his errant, power-hungry executive.

In Rwanda, the first Covid-19-related death was of a person shot because he violated lockdown regulations. That’s what untrammelled power and a lack of accountability will get you.