Health virus SAfrica military 30 March 2020 - 20:14

S.Africa defence minister condemns army brutality amid virus lockdown Johannesburg, March 30, 2020 (AFP) - South Africa's defence minister on Monday condemned alleged heavyhandedness by security forces deployed to enforce a coronavirus lockdown. Videos on social media showed security forces forcing civilians to squat or roll on the ground for allegedly violating the restrictions. In a statement the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) said minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula "condemns any type of abuse committed by the deployed soldiers against citizens during the lockdown". The army has deployed some 3,000 troops to help police the 21-day lockdown ordered last week by President Cyril Ramaphosa to halt the spread of the deadly virus. In an interview with local Newzroom Afrika television channel, the defence minister said she was aware of two videos "which have circulated where clearly there (is) some abuse". "I'm saying I condemn that, we will not allow that to continue," she said. "The instruction which I have given is that if it's proven that a particular soldier has done it, that soldier must be withdrawn from the place of deployment and must go back to base". "We can't afford to have such incidents ... which shows and depict the SANDF as a violator of human rights in this country". Human Rights Watch's director for Southern Africa Dewa Mavhinga called for an independent probe into the alleged military brutality. "It is important that there be an independent investigation into reported incidents with appropriate punishment to the soldiers who committed the abuses," he told AFP. Shenilla Mohamed, executive director of Amnesty International in South Africa said "while it is urgent and important to ensure that people adhere to the lockdown, simply resorting to force will hardly achieve anything". "Hurting or causing injury by using force will only place more strain on the already overburdened medical services". sn-bed/ach

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