‘No one above the law’: Cele talks tough on new rules

‘No one above the law’: Cele talks tough on new rules
Minister of Police Bheki Cele. (Photo: Jaco Marais)

South Africans have been called on to co-operate with stringent disaster management regulations that were announced this week.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said restaurant owners, event organisers, pastors and anyone else caught defying new disaster management regulations will be arrested.

“This is not to punish anybody, we are calling on people to co-operate.”

He was speaking at a press briefing alongside Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola on Friday 20 March.

Under the new rules, establishments are banned from selling alcohol between 6pm and 9am and cannot host more than 50 people on their premises at a time. This includes staff.

He said the South African Police Services would appoint “spotters” to monitor the likes of taverns, clubs, bottle stores and restaurants to ensure sale and consumption of alcohol do not take place during the forbidden hours.

Restaurants and other places that sell food are not required to shut down at 6pm but must adhere to the liquor ban.

If caught in contravention, the owner of an establishment will be arrested. The penalty is a maximum of six months in prison and/or a fine. In the case of a contravention, police will order customers to leave the premises. This includes violations of the 50-person limit. 

Food vendors are required to keep a register of customers for contact tracing purposes.

In terms of the ban on gatherings of 100 people or more, Cele said event organisers could not apply for permission to flout the ban. “Whether it is funerals, weddings or other events,” he said.

Organisers of such events also face penalties and the gathering will be dispersed.

Cele mentioned that a few churches had said they will defy the ban.

“They will see the authority of the state,” Cele warned. “Even if they are priests, they will be arrested. No one is above the law.”

He also sounded a warning about spreading fake news about the virus, a crime that incurs the same penalties as breaching the liquor ban.

Hygiene standards are being implemented at all police stations and precincts, said Cele. Gloves and hand sanitisers are being given to staff and police on the ground.

Members of the public have also been urged to refrain from visiting police stations unless the matter is urgent.

“For instance, applications for police clearance, the taking of fingerprints, renewals of firearm licences, certifying documents that are not urgent, should rather be postponed.”

The SAPS has suspended its new intake of 7,000 trainee police officers.

According to Lamola, visits to all correctional centres are banned for 30 days. The decision will be reviewed on 30 April.

The department is looking into digital ways for inmates to interact with loved ones, and into how trials might be conducted remotely.

Where possible, courts will switch to a remote, digital system called Audio Visual Remand to conduct court appearances in which the trial is certain to be postponed. 

Access to courts is restricted to persons who have material interests in a case.

“Litigants, accused, witnesses, those who may be needed to provide support such as those accompanying children, victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, elderly and people with disabilities, family members, representative of special interests or support groups and members of the media will be permitted to enter the court precinct,” said Lamola.

His department will conduct awareness campaigns for offenders and officials and implement new hygiene measures that include:

  • A twice-daily deep-cleaning of all correctional facilities, from police and court cells to prisons;
  • The cleaning of keys and shackles; and
  • Distribution of gloves and hand sanitisers.

Access to the Master’s office is also restricted according to the 100-person gatherings ban. Reporting of deceased estates and meetings with creditors are postponed until 15 April. Members of the public are urged to send documents to the Master’s office electronically. DM



"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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