A Cape Town man travelling to a 24-hour pharmacy to pick up medication for his sick 5-year-old son was allegedly forced to go home by police after being stopped at a roadblock.
This was despite having a valid reason for being out of the house during lockdown.
Shakeel Ismail, a Rondebosch East resident, said he decided to drive to M-Kem pharmacy in Belville in the early hours on Sunday morning after his son got sick.
“My 5-year-old son was very ill and was vomiting repeatedly and complaining of stomach pains, was in distress and needed medication urgently,” Ismail told News24.
Ismail was then stopped at a roadblock on the M5 highway, where he was allegedly confronted by police who asked why he was on the road at 02:30 in the morning.
“I tried explaining to the police and the army my medical emergency and the need to urgently get medication for my seriously ill 5-year-old son.
“The police officer I spoke to was quite stern and from his expression on his face and his body language I could see he was either not in a good mood or was just not going to allow me through.”
According to Ismail, the police officer asked to see his sick son who was at home, and then allegedly told Ismail that he can’t just drive around without a permit. He told Ismail to go home and phone an ambulance service.
“I was emotional as I tried to explain further to the police officer that I was not driving around and how could I get a permit for my son’s medical emergency and that my son needed medication.
“I was still refused permission to proceed and told to make a U-turn and return home.”
After getting home and seeing his son in pain, Ismail decided he would try to drive to the pharmacy again. He was then allegedly stopped for a second time.
“At the same roadblock, I argued with the same police officer and soldier wielding his gun for 15 minutes,” Ismail said.
“The police officer then had the audacity to tell me that I was disrespecting him. I couldn’t believe this, and it was quite scary, as I felt I was going to be arrested.
“I told the police officer that he was disrespecting me, as I spoke to him calmly and gave him valid reasons for my medical emergency trip, that is part of essential services.
“Eventually after an emotional plea and being visibly shaken, they allowed me to proceed.”
Ismail said he felt like he was treated like a criminal and described the ordeal as a nightmare.
“Why all this drama, for a medical emergency that is allowed during lockdown?,” Ismail asked.
“Hopefully, the police and SANDF don’t give the same tough time to other citizens for medical emergencies, as not everyone will be brave enough to explain to the police the actual lockdown rules.”
National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo told News24 that the regulations were very clear. He said people are allowed to go buy groceries, get medical attention, get medicine or to collect social grants.
He said no proof was needed at roadblocks by those seeking these essential services, and that the system was based on trust.
He further said anyone who is stopped from seeking an essential service should immediately go to the nearest police station to report the matter.
Naidoo warned that those found to be lying about seeking an essential service could be fined or arrested, depending on the seriousness of the offence.