Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned that transgressors of Adjusted Alert Level 4 regulations will leave law enforcement with no option but to effect arrests.
Cele made the declaration while addressing reporters during a National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) briefing, after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday moved the country to Adjusted Alert Level 4, amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections.
“Law enforcement is up to the task. Their aim is not to arrest and criminalise people in mass,” said the Minister.
“As a country, we are all wiser to the effects of this deadly virus. We all know the pain and destruction COVID-19 continues to cause us as a nation and I am confident, there will be more compliance to the regulations set out to save lives.”
Non-compliance with the regulations carries an option of a fine or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both. Since 27 March last year, police had arrested 465 098 citizens who have been charged with the contravention of the Disaster Management Act. Of these, 7 439 of them were nabbed during adjusted alert Level 3 which commenced on 16 June 2021.
“Police will continue to monitor compliance through targeted operations, which will be intensified in hotspot provinces. Community members are also encouraged to continue to be instrumental in reporting the flouting of the regulations,” he said.
He warned that reckless calls for mass contravention of the Disaster Management Act would not be tolerated, saying “police will act decisively against anyone who deliberately and unashamedly contravenes the regulations”.
He added: “In the same breath, let me emphasize, that mass gatherings are not only prohibited but are criminalised under Adjusted Alert Level 4.
“Political leaders of all parties are urged to act responsibly during this time and be reminded that no amount of political mileage is worth people’s lives.”
During the briefing, Cele welcomed the upcoming commencement of the inoculation of security personal. The sector will begin administering jabs from 5 July.
He said the Ministry had already received a comprehensive briefing from the SAPS management in this regard.
“We are satisfied that the inoculation of over 180 000 SAPS members and supporting staff will go ahead as planned.”
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 666 police officers since the country recorded its first case in March last year.
“While we gear up for the vaccination of officers in the frontlines, we know that for the next two weeks it will not be business as usual as we operate under Adjusted Alert Level 4.
“Over and above the national vaccination program that is underway, breaking the chain of transmission by reducing person-to-person contact remains a priority as government, if we are to flatten the curve,” he said.