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SAHRC Continues to Monitor Human Rights Observance and Calls For Calm

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In accordance with its mandate, the South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission or SAHRC) continues to monitor the observance of human rights during the national lockdown due to COVID-19. The Commission is aware of and is disturbed by footage circulating via social media depicting members of the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and South African Police Service (SAPS) officials using force against people who fail to comply with lockdown regulations.

The Commission finds these incidents unpleasant and deeply concerning. The Commission is aware of an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) on the death of a 41-year-old man who was shot Sunday, 29 March 2020, while standing at his home’s veranda, during COVID-19 lockdown enforcement in Vosloorus. IPID has confirmed that an Ekurhuleni Metro Police official and a security guard were arrested for murder and attempted murder following the killing of the man in Vosloorus. The directorate confirmed that children aged 5, 6 and 11-years-old, were injured during the incident.

The Commission commends the swift action by IPID in this matter. The Commission however reminds members of law enforcement, both the SAPS and the SANDF that the fundamental human rights of everyone in South Africa, such as Freedom and Security of the Person and the right to Life remain intact, even under lockdown conditions which have limited other rights. The Commission therefore urges our security forces to exercise greater tolerance and apply minimum force in the execution of their duties as has been urged by the President, the Minister of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and other leaders.

The SAHRC however recognises the difficulty that security forces are faced with in enforcing lockdown regulations, as people continue to flout social distancing and flout lockdown regulations.  Whilst calling for restraint from security forces, the Commission calls on everyone else to adhere to the lockdown regulations which are designed to minimise the transmission and spread of COVID-19.

Juan Badenhorst