Social media posts have shown the troops forcing members of the public to perform physical exercises like push-ups and, in other instances, beating the civilians up and confiscating their groceries.
Condemning the acts, South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Monday said such misconduct could not be tolerated by the government which deployed them to help the police to keep the peace during the 21-day lockdown – now in its fourth day.
“We do not condone what I have heard just now. I’ve been talking on radio stations to plead with our security services to refrain from using excessive force against our people,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.
She added: “They [troops] are out in the street to protect South Africans. They are not in the street to abuse South Africans.”
On the eve of the lockdown last Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa advised the troops not to instill a sense of fear in people but, rather, to provide confidence and hope in the public.
Ramaphosa told the troops that the patrols are a life-saving and life restoration mission.