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89 S.African police arrested for flouting lockdown orders

Scores of government officials, including 89 police officers, have been arrested for flouting South Africa’s coronavirus regulations, many of them for selling confiscated liquor, the police minister said on Wednesday.

“Altogether 131 people including officials, councillors, health officials, correctional services, have been arrested,” Police Minister Bheki Cele told the media in Durban.

“Out of those, 89 of them are South African Police Service members.”

Cele said many of the officers had been arrested for selling liquor they had confiscated from members of the public.

More than 20,000 police officers have been deployed along with the military to enforce a five-week lockdown under which alcohol sales are prohibited.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week rejected mounting calls to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol.

Several shuttered liquor outlets have been looted since the lockdown was imposed last month.

The police minister has credited a major fall in violent crimes to the alcohol ban.

In all, more than 118,000 people have been charged for contravening the lockdown rules, Cele said.

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on Tuesday paid a fine equivalent to $53 (49 euros) for ignoring the stay-at-home order. She has been placed on leave.

A platinum mining company executive was last week released on a 60,000-rand ($3,200) bail for reportedly instructing miners to return to work despite a ban on mining that was in place at the time.

“Nobody will escape the law, it doesn’t matter who you are,” said Cele.

“Whether you are a councillor, whether you are a minister of state, whether you are… police, whether you are whoever, if you contradict these laws you will be arrested and the law will take its course.”