Patrolling during a Pandemic: Recommendations to the South African Police Service and South African National Defence Force during the COVID-19 Deployment

On 5 March, 2020, the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in South Africa. On 15 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster and announced a series of immediate measures to mitigate the further spread of the virus, including strict travel restrictions and the closure of nonessential industries, schools and universities. Just over a week later, on 23 March, the president announced that the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) had decided on a national 21-day lockdown, which was enacted in terms of the Disaster Management Act. The lockdown was subsequently extended to 30 April. To assist South African Police Service (SAPS) members with implementation of lockdown restrictions, maintain law and order, support other state departments, and control the border in line with the Disaster Management Amendment Act (2015), 2,820 members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) were deployed across nine provinces. On 21 April, citing the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus, President Ramaphosa announced the deployment of an additional 73,180 members of the SANDF, consisting of the Regular Force, Reserve Force, and Auxiliary Force. The revised expenditure incurred for the employment of SANDF members was set at R4,590,393,00. For many disadvantaged communities, law enforcement officers are often their first point of contact with the state and therefore they can play an outsized role in determining citizen trust in government. In the current South African context, the conduct of both the SAPS and SANDF will go a long way in determining citizens’ cooperation and compliance with government regulations pertaining to COVID-19. Maintaining law and order during a pandemic is also vital to ensuring public health policies can be effectively implemented to curb the spread of the virus.