Covid-19 lockdown Faces were awash with frustration and anger

Covid-19 lockdown Faces were awash with frustration and anger

Their front line position in the enforcement of the Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown regulations has automatically placed police and the army at the receiving end of the public’s wrath.

They often get yelled at and at times insulted by the angry members of the public.

Such was the scene at one intersection in Mahikeng, North West, where there was a security checkpoint this week. Faces were awash with frustration and anger as plans for the day got interrupted by law enforcement officers.

Passengers were ordered out of overloaded minibus taxis and drivers fined for the violation of regulations because vehicles are not allowed carry a full capacity of passengers, in compliance with social distancing regulations.

Many others were barred from proceeding up a bridge that leads into Mahikeng because they did not have permits and could not provide convincing reasons for them to go into town.

Others vented their anger and frustration at the officers, saying they were going to buy food and other essentials, but the men in uniform were unrelenting and not willing to compromise.

Motorists also had to produce their essential worker permits which allow them to travel or convince the officers why they should be allowed to go through.

Provincial deputy commissioner Major-General Patrick Asaneng explained to the media this week that only people who had permits and valid reasons were allowed to travel, such as those with medical reasons or those on their way to shop for essentials.

He expressed concern that regulations were hugely violated in the North West, hence the escalation of combined forces operations in Mahikeng earlier this week, which he said was going to be taken to other areas.

The number of people arrested across the province for violating lockdown regulations was more than 5 000. Their crimes included non-compliance with social distancing and loitering, as well as selling goods without a valid permit.

Mahikeng, in particular, appears to be in constant need of visible policing for streets to remain empty.

Poloko Tau
City Press saw people waiting not far from roadblock spots for law enforcement officers to leave before proceeding to their destinations.

“We have no choice but to hang around and wait for them to leave. I was taken off a taxi and blocked from going to town to buy groceries. I’m not going to go back home empty-handed and let my family starve when we can buy food,” said Maletso Mance from Setlagole village, about 70km outside Mahikeng.

Other equally frustrated people reiterated her sentiment saying, they knew that the police and the army would not be there forever and that soon they would be able to go on with their lives.

“We’re not violating the regulations, but [President Cyril Ramaphosa] made it clear that we could go and buy food and other essentials, but here we are now, being barred from doing that. I do acknowledge that some people are just out on the streets for no good reason, and probably just bored,” said Majemantsho resident, Andrew Modise.

There is a thin line between urban and rural sections in Mahikeng, with the town and urban residential areas largely surrounded by a rural setting. On a typical lockdown day, most areas around Mahikeng are relatively quiet, with few people seen in the streets and not much vehicle movement.

The streets can get almost totally empty when the army and soldiers decide to contain the area. Word of their presence appears to travel fast across the area, leading to many people choosing to stay at home and not cross paths with the uniformed officials.

While the public has complained that they are being barred from acquiring essentials, the deployment of law enforcement has proven to some extent that the visibility of combined forces including the SA Police Service, the SA National Defence Force, and traffic officers does bring the desired impact in line with lockdown regulations.

After several busy days with queues seen outside shops almost each day, with the numbers picking up drastically last Wednesday, which was pay day for the majority of people in Mahikeng, where most are in public service employ, the week kicked off to a different picture on Monday.

It may be easily concluded that those who got paid were allowed to do their errands and shopping with not much law enforcement seen before the latter was escalated this week.

Monday and Tuesday were this week’s peak days of law enforcement presence, which appears to have lessened in the following days.