WATCH | Soldiers enforcing premature lockdown accused of abusing power

A South African soldier mans the gun on an armoured vehicle.
A South African soldier mans the gun on an armoured vehicle.
Image: James Oatway

Hours before the start of the 21 day Covid-19 lockdown on Thursday midnight, SA National Defence Force soldiers are already being accused of abusing power.

They were allegedly caught on camera enforcing a premature lockdown on Monday, three days before the official commencement of the disaster management period.

A video emerged on Monday night, a few hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown, showing soldiers from on top of moving tanks ordering spaza shoppers to get back in their homes.

One soldier could be heard screaming at children who were queuing at a spaza shop: “ 21 days lockdown, stay in your homes.”

Two children could be seen fleeing towards their houses as the army rolled into the neighbourhood in wartime tanks.

“That shop must close, hey. Close that shop,” a soldier said.

The soldiers' actions, which terrified children of an unidentified township, defied president Ramapho's clear orders.

Seething citizens took to social media and described the actions of the soldiers as “pure abuse of power”.

There is no official confirmation of the location of the incident, but some citizens claimed it took place in Johannesburg.

An angry social media user and East London resident Lisa Madlebe said: “ Abuse of power.”

Athenkosi Bhangushe said the soldiers were clearly starved of action. “They have been bored for a long time,” he said on Facebook.

Asked if the office of the presidency was confident that the soldiers were going to carry out the mandate of the president diligently, presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko was tightlipped.

“Kindly direct questions about the SANDF to the department of defence. Thanks,” she said. 

Defence spokesperson Colonel Louis Kirstein  said: “The SANDF does not discuss operational issues.”