Thabo Mmutle has acknowledged there’s no official directive for this kind of corrective action, but they are just ‘assisting people to be disciplined’.
In an interview with TimesLIVE on Tuesday, ANC MP Thabo Mmutle was unequivocal in his praise of SA National Defence Force members who have meted out light physical punishment to members of the public who are allegedly not respecting the lockdown order to remain in their homes.
He had earlier made headlines for incorrectly declaring that the Bill of Rights had been suspended during the state of disaster, but he then corrected that by saying he had only meant that freedom of movement was now severely limited.
The army and police have been criticised for making the public do pushups, squats and even roll in the mud – no doubt the kind of thing that soldiers and officers themselves were subjected to during their own training boot camps to instil discipline.
However, nothing in the law clearly allows for such measures. The SANDF are only meant to be supporting the police, and the police should be arresting people who are breaking the new gazetted rules.
The ANC now appears to be supporting these on-the-spot punishments as a more lenient way of enforcing compliance without having to resort to arrests.
Similar measures have been used in other countries, such as India, where videos have also emerged of how the public is similarly made to exercise as a form of light punishment.
There have been more serious reports, too, of police whipping the public, using tear gas and firing rubber bullets.
Mmutle, who spoke on behalf of the ANC in the department of defence’s parliamentary oversight committee, said they had been closely monitoring the “good work” done by SANDF members.
“They are not supposed to be beating people but the light punishment like frog jumps, that is not a violation. They are just assisting our people to be disciplined,” Mmutle was quoted as saying. “Those are the measures that obviously soldiers are using for them to enforce the regulations. Those are normally used to ensure that there is discipline,” he said.
He said the reality was that people were finding it difficult to comply with the regulations and soldiers were just trying to help them.
“The videos making rounds on social media attest that in most, if not all, of those videos, it is our people who are assisted to be disciplined in order to save their lives.”
He accused the public of engaging in selective criticism, saying there had been videos showing police being stoned and having to run for their lives.
“When it’s members of society doing that to the police, nobody says anything. But when [soldiers] are applying simple measures that actually seek to discipline these people and ensure that there is the enforcement of regulations, it’s a hullaballoo.”
Speaking to the SABC on Monday morning, the defence minister pleaded with members of the army to refrain from using excessive force against the citizenry and to remember that they had been deployed to protect the citizenry and not abuse them.
She further urged communities not to provoke law enforcement officials deployed in the wake of the nationwide lockdown, called on them to stay at home and for members of the security personnel to “not allow themselves to be pushed to the edge by people who are trying to prove a point”.
The minister said she was unhappy about the videos.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, however, dismissed complaints that the army was more visible in the country’s black townships compared to the suburbs.
“We are all over the place where there is a high concentration of people,” she said.
The minister added it was unfortunate that where regulations for the lockdown were mostly being violated it was in townships such as Alexandra and Soweto in Gauteng, and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.
The DA has nevertheless called on the Military Ombudsman to investigate the SANDF.
DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans MP Kobus Marais said on Monday: “The DA strongly condemns videos making the rounds on social media of SANDF members forcing civilians, who allegedly did not abide by the lockdown regulations, to do squats and push-ups.”
Marais described the SANDF members’ behaviour as “disgusting” and said the DA condemned their actions in “the strongest terms”. He said the party wrote to Masondo after the videos were seen as they were “a gross violation of the military’s mandate and of the Bill of Rights”.
Marais said although the DA agreed that those who did not comply with the lockdown regulations should face the consequences for their actions, but the party condemned “any act which seeks to humiliate and degrade citizens”.
“South Africa is a constitutional democracy, not a military state.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen asked if people would find the SANDF actions so funny if it was happening to a family member.
“History has shown us that it starts with push-ups, but always end in a more sinister way,” he said.
However, DA member of the Gauteng legislature Makashule Gana agreed with the approach as “the best way to deal with them”.
In other news – Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat attacked for donating to South Africa instead of Zimbabwe in fight against Coronavirus
Looking at the bad situation Zimbabwe is in right now, people expected if the player could donate, he would have considered where he comes from first, before anything.
Source: The Citizen