Police have arrested 55 people on a largely successful operation, on the first day of a nationwide 21-day lockdown, Police Minister Bheki Cele said.
At a briefing of the National Command Council on Friday evening, the Minister said those who refuse to cooperate with law enforcement authorities during the 21-day COVID-19 enforced national lockdown, will be forced to do so.
The 55 were arrested across the nine provinces as South Africa entered the lockdown on Thursday midnight. To date, South Africa has 1 170 cases of Coronavirus, with one confirmed death and one death highly suspected to be linked to COVID-19.
Tip-offs received by the police led to arrests related to the contravention of regulations and liquor laws.
“As a result, [in the] Free State we arrested five; Gauteng, we arrested 20 (of which six were in Alexandra); in KwaZulu-Natal we arrested seven; in Limpopo, we arrested 10; in the North West we arrested 10 and in the Western Cape, we arrested 11,” he said.
“They were arrested for hosting street bashes and public drinking. They were undermining the law, but above that, undermining the lives of South Africans and their own lives. What is happening here is not a war on any South African. It is a war against the enemy called Coronavirus,” said Cele.
There were 2400 officers on duty across the country while 172 roadblocks were set up across South Africa.
Cele joined law enforcers on roadblock operations on the N1 in Limpopo and on the N4 to the North West.
“Some of us spent time with the ground forces that were implementing and enforcing the law,” he said. "After 12 [midnight], all cars were not allowed to pass, going to Limpopo on the N1 and were turned back,” said the Minister.
Among the roadblocks was one held along the N4 highway heading to the North West, the N3 heading to KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng.
“We also visited the areas were police were saturated like Soshanguve. We went there and left at 3.20am,” he said.
While there were shortcomings on the first day of the lockdown, police operations would continue over the duration of the lockdown.
Among the concerns raised by the Minister was that of large crowds outside supermarkets across the province.
“We’ve had a discussion with the Minister of Trade and Industry and we are finding an answer. We will soon know how to handle it,” Cele said.
Police, he said, had also noted a trend of people loitering around these areas without the intension of doing any essential shopping.
Also speaking at the briefing, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had been deployed to various spots.
Initially, the SANDF were to be deployed to Gauteng, Western Cape and KZN but it had since been decided that the troops would be visible throughout the country.
She also conceded that snags had been noted in the initial deployment, but visibility had since been heightened.
“I do also want to appeal to our people that this pandemic is a killer; the situation is serious. We are fighting an invisible enemy; this is what we need to bear in mind,” she said.
People are still not clear of the gravity of the situation while others tried to practice social distancing, she said.
On complaints that the SANDF had not been deployed to certain areas, she said this was due to the deployment only happening last night and SANDF members were en-route.
Mapisa-Nqakula clarified that although 3000 members had been assigned to the lockdown, not all would actively participate in operations at once.
The Ministers said those who were en-route to other provinces and Zimbabwe at midnight, had to be turned back. – SAnews.gov.za