In the event that there may be incidents of unlawful conduct on their part, such conduct must be reported to the relevant authorities, the president said in an affidavit filed in response to an urgent application lodged by NGO Fair and Equitable Society.
The organisation is tomorrow approaching the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for an urgent declaratory order that the security forces are violating the constitutional rights of South Africans in using excessive violence against people during this time.
It also wants an interdict to prevent the SAPS and SANDF from using excessive force in dealing with the public.
It is basing its application mostly on incidents of violence as depicted on social media and in news reports.
In his opposing affidavit, Ramaphosa said: “The pandemic is very serious and if not arrested with great urgency and discipline, it will wreak havoc across the nation and cost many lives.
“There must, for that reason, be strict compliance with the Covid-19 regulations. There must equally, be strict and disciplined enforcement of the regulations – within the confines of the law.”
He reiterated his earlier statement to the nation that the security personnel were deployed to ensure the protection of the citizens of this country.
He said they were here to enforce, within the bounds of the law, the regulations relating to the nationwide lockdown.
“Should there be any complaint about the conduct of our security personnel, such complaints must be lodged with the relevant authorities tasked with the investigation of such matters.”
Ramaphosa, however, denied any “specific knowledge” that in general members of the SAPS and SANDF acted unconstitutionally. “I am advised that where specific complaints have been raised with the Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) in respect to the conduct of some police; Ipid has already undertaken to investigate such complaints.”
He said all his ministers had spared no effort in defending the citizens against Covid-19.
“Where mistakes have been made in these uncharted waters, they have acted swiftly to remedy the situation and issue clearer directives.”
Ramaphosa said he had from the start said the security forces had to act in accordance with the law.
“Accordingly, I do not take lightly any allegation that there may have been incidents of abuse of power by our security personnel. Unfortunately the affidavit of the applicant (the NGO) simply alleges such abuse without any specificities.”
Ramaphosa said he considered the allegations raised by the NGO as very serious. “If true, they should concern all of us and they deserve condemnation.”
But, he said, they must be reported to the relevant bodies so that action could be taken against the culprits.
“However, the applicant must assist us with more than just reference to unidentified culprits circulating in various media platforms.”
Ramaphosa further stated that he had to call for the extraordinary measures of a lockdown to save lives before the virus totally got out of hand. “I am convinced that this extraordinary intervention will later prove to be the one intervention we adopted that averted an unprecedented calamity for our nation.”
He said he knew this intervention would have a great impact on people’s lives and the economy, but “the human cost of delaying the intervention was too ghastly to contemplate”.
He said the 18000 security forces were deployed across the country to “support, reassure and comfort our citizens during this difficult time”.
Ramaphosa stated that in deploying these forces, there was never an order for them to act violently or heavy-handedly. He said that while he did not have reason to believe they acted in this manner, he called on those who had complaints in this regard to lodge them with the relevant authorities.
He said while he took allegations of misconduct on the part of the security forces very seriously, he viewed this application as misconceived and unnecessary.