Police have been accused of coming down hard on soft targets violating lockdown in the suburbs while ignoring wholesale disregard of the regulations in the townships.
A video of police arresting a woman on Blouberg beachfront has stoked the criticism, with some saying police seem intent on only applying lockdown to joggers and surfers. Others have suggested a racial motive, claiming white people in the suburbs are being arrested while black and coloured people in the townships are left to do what they want.
The video that emerged last week shows a white woman being arrested on the beachfront in Blouberg.
According to provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Novela Potelwa, Table View police saw the 41-year-old woman jogging on the beachfront on Tuesday at 2.25pm – outside of the permitted hours of 6am to 9am.
“She refused to cooperate with the police, evading questions posed to her. That prompted police to take action against her. She was then arrested and charged in terms of the Disaster Management Act regulations.”
In one of the two videos of the incident that went viral, the woman is heard shouting at the officers to “f*** off’’ four times in seven seconds.
After that, she screams that the police are not allowed to touch her and that they should be a distance of one metre away from her.
During all of this, the three policemen in the video are seen trying to force her into the back of a police van.
“As she resisted the arrest and swore at police during the arrest, additional charges relating to resisting arrest and crimen injuria were added,” Brigadier Potelwa said.
“She was taken to Table View police station where she was warned to appear in court on September 2. Due to the nature of the incident and the difficulty it posed on the arresting officials, police also took cellphone footage of the arrest.”
Table View resident Thomas Kruger told Tabletalk that police were targeting white citizens because they were “easy targets”.
He said he had been part of the surfer protests that took place last week.
“I believe that the government is being too harsh in the way they enforce the lockdown. And it’s becoming clear that certain groups of people get more flak from SAPS and other police agencies. In Joe Slovo and Dunoon, it seems like it’s business as usual.”
Elaine Smit said to Tabletalk that there appeared to be a much bigger police presence in Milnerton, where she lives, than in Joe Slovo and Phoenix.
“We are being held prisoners in our own homes. We can’t even take a walk to the beach when the weather is good, except that three-hour time period in the morning. Meanwhile,our neighbours in Joe Slovo get to do what they like. The markets and other informal trading places were open even before the regulations were relaxed.”
At the surfer protest at Blouberg on Tuesday last week, one demonstrator told African News Agency the lockdown regulations were like apartheid because people had to carry around permits to go places and there was “no freedom”.
Brigadier Potelwa disputed accusations that police were targeting certain groups of people. She said there were scheduled patrols and operations in Dunoon and Joe Slovo.
“In other words, claims of not doing enough in the areas and targeting joggers and surfers are without basis,” she said.
Township residents also disagreed that the police were treating them with kid gloves. Far from it, they argued.
Noxolo Kevu, from Joe Slovo, said that although she had seen a lot of people in the township breaking lockdown rules, she had seen them getting fines and being arrested.
“I feel as though police sometimes act too rough with our people here. People are being forced to run home even though they were coming from the shop. We shouldn’t be scared of police, but, rather, they must be the organisation we can trust.”
Themba Jaji, of Dunoon, said the police and the army made people do all kinds of fitness exercises to punish them for flouting lockdown rules.
“It doesn’t matter to them whether you come from the shop or from work, they treat us badly here. I would like to see them treating people in the rich areas the way they treat us. Maybe then things will change.”
While some believe police are targeting surfers, joggers and white people in general, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said that, on the contrary, there were many reported cases of police irregularities in the more vulnerable communities.
In a statement on Monday, the MEC asked the province’s police ombudsman to investigate police inefficiencies during lockdown.
“These include the alleged threatening of an elderly woman, a pregnant woman and several Muizenberg residents at Muizenberg SAPS. These reports are not limited to Muizenberg SAPS alone. It is unacceptable that SAPS should act so aggressively towards the residents that they are duty-bound to serve,” he said.
Mr Fritz said that one officer had allegedly been heard telling a member of the public, “I hope you get the virus.”
The public can contact the Western Cape police ombudsman at 021 483 0669 or firstname.lastname@example.org to report any police irregularities.