Date: Mar 28, 2020

South Africa: Authorities must not use force during the lockdown period unless strictly necessary

As the authorities in South Africa have imposed restrictions on freedom of movement amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International calls on the security forces patrolling the lockdown to avoid using force when dealing with members of the public unless strictly necessary and proportionate.

In response to reports that some members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) have used force against members of the public and the media, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International 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. It is imperative that an educational approach, rather than force, is used to sensitize anyone who is not complying with the rules of the lockdown. Security forces must also abide by national and international human rights laws and standards at all times.

“Hurting or causing injury by using force will only place more strain on the already overburdened medical services. It is also crucial that the authorities clearly identify essential workers, which includes members of the media, so that they can continue with their vital duties during the lockdown.”


President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a lockdown on Monday, 23 March 2020, in response to COVID-19. The lockdown came into effect at midnight on Thursday, 26 March 2020.

A lockdown is an emergency protocol that requires South Africans to stay home except for essential purposes. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and other essential industries will remain open. All non-essential activities are suspended.

Anyone breaking the rules could be punished with imprisonment for up to one month or with a fine.

The list of essential services include healthcare providers, pharmacies, banks and petrol stations as well as companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods and medical supplies. Newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunication infrastructure and services are also included.

The full list of government-approved essential services can be found here.

The National Department of Health has issued a Coronavirus Outbreak 24-hour Hotline Number: 0800 029 999 and a WhatsApp information number 0600 123 456.


Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;