Despite efforts by President Cyril Ramaphosa to enforce a pandemic lockdown at South Africa’s overcrowded slums without violence, defense forces were reported to be joining police in firing on the community with rubber bullets and water cannons.
Visuals of the heavy-handed treatment were seen in news broadcasts around the continent and on social media. The lockdown was launched with tighter restrictions than in other countries, and included bans on any sales of alcohol and cigarettes and even barred exercises outside the home.
“Our people will be looking to you to give them reassurance, not as a force of might but as a force of kindness,” the president said in a TV broadcast. “They must know that you will be looking after them.”
But in contrast to those gentle words, video images showed a soldier kicking and beating civilians caught after the lockdown. Water cannons and rubber bullets were fired to disperse people lining up outside food shops––a permitted activity under the lockdown.
Police were accused of tasering and beating a man to death after the man was caught going to buy beer. Media reports said he was beaten with a hammer.
According to the Financial Times, South Africa’s middle class was mostly able to stockpile supplies days before the lockdown. By contrast, in poorer townships and inner city areas were workers were recently paid, lines were longer.
Meanwhile, as the country’s positive cases jumped to 1,326––the highest on the continent – Pres. Ramaphosa announced the government will soon launch a 10,000-strong medical project to screen people for the virus. Three people have died so far from the coronavirus.
Other lockdowns around the continent include Zimbabwe, starting a three-week lockdown on Monday, Lesotho will go on a 25-day lockdown. Ghana has announced a two-week lockdown in Accra and Kumasi starting Monday. Residents will only be allowed to go out to buy food, water and medicines and to use public toilets.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s sprawling capital, Kinshasa, was meant to go into lockdown for four days, the measure was delayed after the announcement caused a spike in the price of basic goods and worries about unrest.
And in neighboring Congo-Brazzaville, Pres. Denis Sassou Nguesso declared a health emergency and announced a 30-day lockdown in the country, combined with a night curfew, from Tuesday.
In the Sahel, Burkina Faso, the capital, Ouagadougou, will be quarantined for two weeks from Friday and in Mali, the government has imposed some anti-coronavirus measures, including a night-time curfew, but said a long-delayed parliamentary election would go ahead on Sunday.