South African Police Service (SAPS) Major General Leon Rabie on Tuesday said the abuse of power or involvement in any illegal activities by the members of his organisation during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic not only brings SAPS into disrepute but grossly undermines government’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Rabie was speaking during a seminar organised by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) titled Lockdown abuse and civil society’s response.
He said it was also a gross violation of the SAPS code of conduct and it may constitute the contravention of the SAPS disciplinary regulations.
South Africa has one of the strictest Covid-19 lockdowns of any country and enforcing it is largely the job of police and soldiers.
Numerous accounts of security forces assaulting lockdown violators have sparked widespread condemnation and the rapid mobilisation of civil society in defence of victims.
Rabie said the role of the SAPS is to contain the spreading of the Covid-19 during the lockdown.
He said the role of the SAPS is to enforce the regulations as provided in the legislation according to the current procedure of the Criminal Act.
“Any contravention of the regulations is regarded as serious misconduct and will, in addition to criminal responses, be dealt with in terms of immediate disciplinary proceedings; where appropriate, employees are suspended while expedition processes are initiated. All incidents are monitored by our Covid-19 steering committees at national and provincial levels,” he said.
Representing civil society, People’s Coalition Covid-19 working group, Thato Mhini questioned the independence of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) during lockdown.
Unfortunately, South Africa has a rich archive of high profile incidents of police criminal conduct without accountability.
“There has been a lack of political will into transforming the SAPS service,” she said.
She added that Ipid has been enduring challenges including being under resourced and under capacitated to do its work and lackinh independence.
She added that: “Currently it sits under the Police Minister and yet they are also tasked to police the police and investigate the police.”