There is no guarantee that criminal records of people who have violated loackdown regulations will be expunged.
According to Correctional Services spokesperson, Crispin Phiri, the department was in the process of bringing amendments that would have an impact on the type of criminal records that would be expunged before the Covid-19 pandemic.
This has again been brought into the spotlight following an announcement by Police Minister Bheki Cele that more than 300,000 people have been arrested for contravening the Disaster Management Act since March 2020.
NGOs have called on government to expunge the offenders’ criminal records, arguing that the country’s unemployment will worsen.
But Phiri says violating Covid-19 regulations is no small matter.
“Prior to Covid-19, we were generally concerned about the types of offences which garner one a criminal record. There is no guarantee that if successful, the violation of Covid-19 regulations could fall under this intended dispensation,” Phiri said.
“Violating Covid-19 Regulations is no small matter. The ramifications are severe,” he added.
He called on people to observe Covid-19 regulations, including wearing masks.
“It must be noted that Government resisted criminalising not wearing a mask until near the end of last year,” he added.
“It was done because people weren’t observing a critical non-pharmaceutical intervention. Masks are a key measure to suppress transmission and save lives.”
“Many people with Covid-19 are unaware they are carrying the virus. Some with Covid-19 are asymptomatic but potentially able to transmit the virus to others. Therefore masks can also reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic,” he said.
Since the start of the lockdown last year, at least 342,000 people have been arrested for contravening the Disaster Management Act, with 20,116 people nabbed between 29 December and 11 January.
Of these, 7,455 citizens were caught not wearing masks in public.
“These arrests were made despite people being told continuously to wear their masks. Wearing a mask is mandatory and people caught without one in public, are committing an offence. The wearing of masks is both for your safety and the safety of others around you.
“I want to stress the point that the law enforcement agencies do not enjoy making these arrests as these laws are there to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus that’s ravaging our country. However, officers of the SAPS are left with no choice but to act in the interest of saving lives,” said Cele.