The police and armed forces are currently roaming the streets of our villages, towns and cities to implement measures to combat the COVID-19 virus throughout the country.
Their role is to keep everyone safe, keep order in society through law enforcement, and to prevent crime and apprehend offenders.
Those civilians allegedly not complying with the COVID-19 emergency regulations have unfortunately been met, at times, with violent responses from the police officers and soldiers.
There have been several reports and video footage circulated on social media and news sites of scenes of police and soldiers physically assaulting and even tragically shooting civilians for alleged non-compliance with the COVID 19 regulations.
A violent response to civilians by police officers or soldiers in the implementation of the measures to combat the COVID 19 virus is unlawful.
The constitution of South Africa contains a bill of rights, which protects the basic or fundamental rights of every person. All South Africans are protected against unlawful infringement of their rights by the state or others.
Everybody enjoys the right to freedom of security of their person. Nobody’s freedom may be taken without legal ground, and nobody may be tortured, assaulted or treated or punished in an inhumane or degrading way.
As a result, a suspected civilian may not be threatened, intimidated, assaulted or treated in a degrading manner by police officers and soldiers in the execution of their duties.
The state has a constitutional obligation to protect individuals from violence, and failure to do so may give rise to delictual liability in our law.
An assault is a delict which affects a person’s bodily integrity. As a result, any physical interference of civilians by the police or soldiers is ordinarily wrongful.
The state is liable for an assault committed by police officers or soldiers acting in the course and scope of their employment and while in the execution of their duties. In such a case, the relevant Minister is the nominal defendant as representative of the state.
If you have been involved in an incident with a police officer or member of the South African National Defence Force, you should gather and preserve as much useful information about the incident you can.
Take note that the above is merely general information and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice.
If you require legal advice to determine what your rights are, please feel free to reach out to us for assistance.