The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the Military Ombudsman to investigate the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after its members were seen punishing Soweto residents who were not abiding by lockdown rules in videos that emerged on social media.
DA shadow minister of defence and military veterans MP Kobus Marais said in a statement on Monday: “The DA strongly condemns videos making the rounds on social media of SANDF members forcing civilians, who allegedly did not abide by the lockdown regulations, to do squats and push-ups.”
Marais described the SANDF members behaviour as “disgusting” and said the DA condemned their actions in “the strongest terms”.
He said the party wrote to Masondo after the videos were seen as they were “a gross violation of the military’s mandate and of the Bill of Rights”.
“Upon viewing these videos, the DA immediately wrote to the Military Ombudsman, General (Ret) Vusi Masondo, to request an independent investigation as the SANDF’s actions are a gross violation of the military’s mandate and of the Bill of Rights.
“I also engaged the acting Chief of the Army, Major General MJ De Goede, who confirmed that the matter had been registered for investigation.
“We trust that this investigation will be transparent and that the SANDF and SAPS members involved will be held fully accountable for their deplorable behaviour,” Marais said.
Marais said although the DA agreed that those who did not comply with the lockdown regulations should face the consequences for their actions, but the party condemned “any act which seeks to humiliate and degrade citizens”.
He added that the party had also written a letter to the minister of defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, regarding the matter.
“South Africa is a constitutional democracy, not a military state.
“Despite the country being in an unprecedented period in our democratic history; the rule of law, the Bill of Rights and our Constitution must be adhered to at all times,” Marais concluded.
DA interim leader John Steenhuisen asked on Monday morning that would people find the SANDF members actions so funny if it was happening to a family member.
“History has shown us that it starts with push-ups, but always end in a more sinister way,” he said.
However, DA member of the Gauteng legislature Makashule Gana, agreed with the approach of making people do squats and pushups in the streets – like a military boot camp – as “the best way to deal with them”.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula later said she does not condone the excessive use of force.
Speaking to the SABC on Monday morning, the minister pleaded with members of the army to refrain from using excessive force against the citizenry and to remember that they had been deployed to protect the citizenry and not abuse them.
She further urged communities not to provoke law enforcement officials deployed in the wake of the nationwide lockdown, called on them to stay at home and for members of the security personnel to “not allow themselves to be pushed to the edge by people who are trying to prove a point”.
The minister said she was unhappy about the videos.
Mapisa-Nqakula dismissed complaints that the army was more visible in the country’s black townships compared to the suburbs.
“We are all over the place where there is a high concentration of people,” the minister said.
She added it was unfortunate that where regulations for the lockdown were mostly being violated it was in townships such as Alexandra and Soweto in Gauteng, and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.