Since the 21 days of national lockdown went into effect, one of the most frequently expressed concerns has been around what to do if one is stopped by SAPS or the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) while out to stock up on essential goods.
To make matters worse, reports of police brutality on the streets and in the townships has added another layer of fear to what is already a tense relationship between law enforcement and South African citizens.
Fact-checking organisation Africa Check confirms that there has been a lot of confusion about how and when we can move around. So much so that even officials in government bought into strange rumours on social media.
Before the lockdown began, South African social media users started sharing a “declaration of citizen’s movement” form, supposedly required by anyone leaving their home.
It is a real legal document but it doesn’t apply in South Africa. It is intended for residents of the Republic of Cyprus, an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The island has enforced its own lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19, to last until 13 April.
Police and the military are similarly confused about what they can and can’t do, what should be checked, and which documents need to be carried.
At Cape Town Central police station, Const Mphithi said that while no official documentation was needed, police were still asking citizens to show some evidence of where they were travelling to. He gave examples of a bank card for purchasing essential goods or an SMS to confirm a medical appointment.
I don’t know about you but I generally carry a bank card, so I’m not sure how that qualifies as evidence. Also, not everyone has a bank account.
To clarify things, it’s a good idea to carry your ID and proof of residence (a bill, bank statement or insurance cover information). The proof of residence lets law enforcement know that you’re travelling within your area.
If you are travelling to perform essential duties like healthcare, journalism, or in a store certified to sell essential goods, then you must carry a letter from the relevant company or institution that you work for.
This letter must be in the form of a permit, which must be filled out by employers, signed and stamped. Legal practitioners must acquire a different certificate to travel. They can do this by contacting the Department of Justice.
Which brings us to MyBroadband with some tips on what to do if you’re stopped by law enforcement while out of the house.
The first thing that you need to do is stay calm and comply. Shouting at a SANDF or SAPS official isn’t going to set the mood for a civil interaction. You are also allowed to ask for identification from the officer who has pulled you over if you’re unsure of the situation.
This from policing law expert at Unisa, Professor Rudolph Zinn:
“If you are going to an appointment at the hospital or a doctor, try and get confirmation such as an SMS or a document that they could email to you in advance.”
“If you are on your way to do shopping, I think it’s advisable to have a list for your shopping.”
If you feel like you have been unfairly treated it’s important that you make a record of the following:
- Time and date of the incident
- Name of officers/soldiers
- Registration or vehicle number
- Description of the incident
Finally, if you live in the Cape, IOL reports that the DA has staffed a WhatsApp line and email system that you can use to report SANDF and SAPS officials who are violating the terms of their service during lockdown.
The WhatsApp number and email address will be monitored by a task team of DA members of Parliament in the security and justice clusters.
Those details, here:
WhatsApp Number: 067 977 9324
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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