Parliament, Thursday, 16 April 2020 – The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has called a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Police to receive a report from the South African Police Service (Saps) and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) on the role of the security services during the lockdown and to consider various issues of concern surrounding the management of lockdown. The prime issue to be considered is the management and heavy-handedness of security forces during the lockdown.

“In welcoming the announcement of the lockdown, the committee emphasised the supremacy of the law and that the declaration of the lockdown did not mean the suspension of the Constitution. Thus, the law ought to be respected at all times, more especially by officers of the law,” Ms Joemat-Pettersson said.

The continuing reports of alleged abuse of power and heavy-handedness by law enforcement officers is a concern of the committee. IPID and SAPS have been asked to report to the committee on these allegations and provide a detailed analysis of incidents. The intention is to ensure that there is consequence management for police officers who are involved in misconduct, especially in abusing the rights of citizens during the lockdown. The committee wants to emphasise that a few bad apples are tarnishing the police’s good reputation. We call on Ipid to speedily investigate all complaints or cases of alleged abuse.

Communities who provoke the police and who break the law should be brought to book.

The Chairperson reiterated her full backing of the call by the President that enforcement of the law must not in any way violate the rights of the people, either intentionally or unintentionally. Compassion is and should be the central pillar of this mission. “It is concerning that despite the compassionate plea by the President, there are those elements who have decided to undermine the rights of South Africans,” Ms Joemat-Pettersson emphasised.

Despite this, we must commend those law enforcement officials that continue to act within the confines of the law.

Meanwhile, the committee condemns in the strongest terms the burning and vandalism of property that has spiked in the past week, targeting schools and businesses. These acts are criminal and police must not leave any stone unturned in investigating these callous acts and bringing the perpetrators to book. “The most treacherous action is burning a school that is meant to guarantee a better future for next generation. Communities must work with police to isolate and expose these criminals,” Ms Joemat-Pettersson said.

The committee has noted the call from certain in quarters to remove alcohol from the banned items. Following the release of the annual crime statistics, the committee highlighted its concerns regarding substance abuse, which contributes to South Africa’s high rate of contact crimes. Saps will also provide a report on this.

Despite this, the committee is concerned by reports of an upsurge in gender-based violence and femicide, and crimes against children since the lockdown. The committee have noted with concern the warnings that domestic shelters for women and children are reaching full capacity.

The police must continue to support and respond urgently to reported cases. Furthermore, communities must heighten collaboration with police to collectively fight this scourge. The committee thanks civil society and non-governmental organisations for their vigilant role in bringing these abuses to light. We also call on the LGBTQI+ community to also report any incidents of this nature. We recognise the implications of the lockdown where the vulnerable remain in a confined space with their abusers.

The Chairperson raised concerns about the of delivery of food parcels that has created unhappiness among certain communities. Although we understand the plight of the poor who are affected by the lockdown, we call on those who distribute and those who receive the food parcels to do so in an orderly manner. The committee will seek to engage with the Portfolio Committee on Social Services to ensure that the planning of these processes adheres to regulations.

Above all, the Chairperson has emphasised the importance of collaboration between communities and Saps, as this will go a long way in ensuring that law and order is maintained and that the pandemic is overcome. “The only way to conquer this virus is through adherence to all regulations, as set out by government, and adherence to protocols set out by the World Health Organisation,” Ms Joemat-Pettersson said.


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