Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has condemned any form of abuse committed by soldiers during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.
The Minister’s remarks follow various allegations of abuse by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed in support of government efforts to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The Minister wishes to strongly reiterate the message delivered by the Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF [President Cyril Ramaphosa] to desist from using excessive force against citizens of the country regardless of the level of provocation they may face whilst deployed.
“The Minister has since instructed the Chief of the SANDF to monitor the situation on the ground and deal with those members proven to have used excessive or unnecessary force against the citizens. Such heavy handedness is not in the interest of safeguarding our citizens,” the Department of Defence said in a statement on Monday.
The Minister called on citizens to adhere to the lockdown regulations as stated in the Government Gazette for the duration of the lockdown and to desist from provoking any of the law enforcement officials deployed to assist curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would be in the best interest of the SANDF to empower the public about the dangers of the virus. Therefore citizens are urged to remain in their homes at all possible times. This will help curb the spread of the virus in our communities.
“We appeal to all people to play a positive role in ensuring the spread of the virus is curbed,” the department said.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for investigations into the videos that have surfaced on social media showing incidents of abuse.
“We strongly condemn the videos making rounds on social media of SANDF members forcing civilians, who allegedly did not abide by the lockdown regulations, to do squats and push-ups. We have written to the Military Ombudsman to investigate and take action,” said the party’s Kobus Marais (Member of Parliament).
The party has also engaged with the acting Chief of the Army, who confirmed that the matter had been registered for investigation.
“We trust that this investigation will be transparent and that the SANDF and SAPS members involved will be held fully accountable,” he said.