Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, in reaction to the death of an Alexandra man allegedly assaulted by members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), said: “We hang our heads in shame.”
Speaking during a media briefing on the amendment of regulations for the national lockdown, the minister said the police, military police and the military ombudsman were investigating the circumstances that led to the death.
“The fact that we have not spoken on the matter should not portray us as an insensitive government. We are very sensitive. We hang our heads in shame that we have a lost a person in some of the communities, and we will not at any point defend what has happened. It is important for people to give us time to investigate the circumstances under which this man has died,” she said.
SABC News previously reported that the deceased’s neighbour said they were having a drink inside their yard when a soldier approached them, questioning why they were drinking and why they were not indoors.
After they were instructed to leave, more soldiers arrived, and they were then allegedly badly assaulted.
A source told the public broadcaster that the deceased’s wife said her husband was in a bad state and not responding when she spoke to him after the alleged beating.
Mapisa-Nqakula said people should not venture out of their homes to check what soldiers and law enforcement were doing, “or even to provoke them”.
“We are not taking these steps because we are a mean government, or we are being insensitive. We have taken these decisions because it has become necessary for us to do so. Young people, you have nothing to lose but your life. If you go out, you do it at your own peril,” she said, adding that going out would only lead to further infections.
The minister also praised the family of the deceased for opening their home to the chaplain-general, who visited on behalf of the government.
“The delegation which visited the family home was well received. No anger, no bitterness, whatsoever. It was a South African visiting a family which has lost a loved one.
“When they passed the condolences on behalf of government, the people accepted. Yes, this may have caused a bit of tension, but we should never be projected as a government which is not caring.”