South Africans are well into their fourth day of the 21-day national lockdown imposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bid to curtail the spread of the ever-growing Covid-19 pandemic. Since the start of the lockdown, more than 600 people have been arrested for not adhering to the regulations put in place by the government. Concerns over the violation of the lockdown on the Cape Flats and other township areas in the Western Cape have been heightened after images and videos surfaced on social media this weekend showing locals roaming the streets. Many shopping malls also experienced a surge in shoppers as residents who waited for payday rushed to get their essential items, cramming into stores where social distancing was not enforced.
Community Police Forum (CPF) for Mitchells Plain, Abie Isaacs said it was disheartening to see the sheer disregard by certain residents.
“Communities are not taking this matter seriously,” stated Isaacs matter-of-factly.
He urged communities to stop thinking of the lockdown as a vacation or down-time from work.
“It is not a holiday, it is our harsh reality,” pleaded Isaacs.
The first weekend of the lockdown proved to be a busy three days for the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as they were spread thinly across the province. Over 260 people were arrested for being in contravention of the National Disaster Act, which stipulates the do’s and don’ts of the national lockdown.
The City’s enforcement services are working in support of SAPS in enforcing the national lockdown regulations. Officers are working on a shift basis, assisting with roadblocks and vehicle checkpoints, as well as doing roving patrols in areas to ensure public compliance.
Metro Police officers made 21 arrests during the last week; charges included driving under the influence of alcohol, domestic violence, possession of drugs and dangerous weapons and contravention of the Disaster Management act.
Isaacs said he believes that there are enough law enforcement agencies to ensure that people are monitored but that the flaw lied in the deployment of these officials.
“You cannot have a situation where you have 12 vehicles with [inaudible] occupants following each other, split up those vehicles with at least 3-4 occupants per vehicle and that is how people will be properly surveilled,” suggested Isaacs.
Isaacs said like many other CPFs or Neighborhood Watches (NHW) on the Cape Flats, he has been instructed by the Brigadier in his jurisdiction to stay at home. Isaacs said he accepts this decision as the lives of the volunteers is more important than assisting officials.
“You cannot expose our volunteers that is vulnerable to these conditions,” said Isaacs, adding that they are not authorized with proper protective gear.
Isaacs ended by saying volunteers are not equipped to deal with a national disaster.
“This is not crime, this is a disaster and we are not trained.”
Grassy Park’s CPF Reverend Phillip Bam agreed with the sentiment that some citizens are enjoying the lockdown period as if it were free reign.
“In some parts of Grassy Park there is total adherence and compliance, but in other parts there are people who don’t take these things seriously,” said Bam.
Bam believes some citizens have not been educated enough on Covid-19 and thus fail to understand the importance of staying indoors.
“There’s a lot of incorrect information going around and people don’t realize the seriousness. This thing is very serious, this thing is a killer and people need to adhere to the social and health guidelines,” pleaded Bam.
Bam advised residents to inform each other on the weightiness of the matter.
“Please speak to your people, speak to your neighbors, ask them to help their children understand that this is a crisis and we cannot afford to have people leave their homes willy-nilly,” urged Bam.
Bam said it is a concern that some citizens are exploiting the situation.
“This is not the time to be standing on a street corner, this is the time to take every precautionary measure and stay at home,” said Bam.
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