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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

MEDIA STATEMENT: SAHRC Reminds Security Forces to Uphold Human Rights and People to Adhere to Lockdown Conditions

 27 April 2020

ATT: Editors and Reporters

The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission or SAHRC) has been made aware of the video clip circulating via social media of a raid conducted by members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), on a Mosque near Masibikela, Mpumalanga, which occurred on Friday the 24th March 2020. 

The SAHRC re-iterates its call that all within South Africa should adhere to the conditions of the lockdown currently in place, which include the prohibition on gathering in groups for religious observances. The lockdown regulations are in place to protect public health through measures designed to curb the spread of the potentially fatal COVID-19 virus. The national state of disaster declared by government in terms of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 is a measure taken to protect the rights to life and health of all in South Africa. It must therefore be respected to the greatest extent permissible under our constitutional order. 

At the same time, the enforcement of the disaster management regulations and measures must be enforced within the law and with due regard to the rights enshrined in the Constitution of this country and to the extent that they have not been limited by the said regulations. The Commission is therefore shocked, dismayed and deeply disturbed by the disparaging remarks made by some members of the SAPS when they arrested members of the Muslim religion who were violating the lockdown regulations in a mosque at Masibikela, Mpumalanga. The Commission strongly condemns the insensitive remarks made against the Islamic religion, especially at the time when Muslims in our country and all over the world were beginning the holy month of fasting as part of their religion. The utterances violated the religious rights not only of those arrested and are completely unacceptable. While the persons in the mosque needed to be arrested for their wrongful conduct, they did not deserve the verbal indignity and disrespect for their religion.

 Our Constitution provides for the freedom of religion, belief and opinion and does not allow for unfair discrimination on the grounds of religion. It also does not allow for expression that can be seen as advocating hatred by the state or any other person. The display of such religious intolerance violated their rights

The Commission has on numerous occasions insisted that law enforcement agencies of the state, including the SAPS, must adhere to the Constitution and the law and respect human rights whilst enforcing the lockdown measures. While the Commission notes and fully appreciates that, in general, most members of law enforcement agencies are doing their best to uphold the law and human rights, and under very difficult circumstances, it is concerned that there are a few bad elements within them whose actions continue to tarnish the hard work and good name of the majority of women and men working in these agencies. We commend the swift reaction of the SAPS top echelon and their rejection of the conduct in question. The Commission agrees with SAPS that those involved must be brought to book.   

The Commission repeats its call to all inhabitants of this country to obey and comply with lockdown conditions and cooperate with law enforcement agencies of the state whilst insisting that they should also respect the human rights of everybody.


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Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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