Police Minister Bheki Cele has revealed that that 7 000 South Africans – and counting, have so far been arrested for not wearing masks in public, under Level 3 of the lockdown.

In an interview with eNCA, Cele said the police have been using their powers of enforcement during the festive season, which has paid off.

“Starting from December 27 until January 7, 20 116 people have been arrested. Most of them for liquor offences and the masks. For mask offences, 7 000 people have been arrested,” Cele said.

More compliance with wearing masks under Level 3 lockdown – Cele

Cele said, however, that South Africans have realised the importance of wearing masks, not just as an obligation to the level 3 lockdown restrictions, but as a way to counter the spread of COVID-19 and essentially save lives.

“I must say we have found a better compliance when it comes to masks at present.  I think it’s because people are realising that the situation is serious but also because we can now enforce the issue of the masks,”

Police Minister Bheki Cele

Cele said that 342,000 people been arrested since the start of lockdown in March 2020.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa first re-imposed a level 3 lockdown in the country, in 28 December 2020, he announced that wearing masks in public would become mandatory for citizens. This is an important measure which is aimed at countering the further spread of COVID-19.

Failure to wear mask in public under the current level 3 lockdown regulations could see people spend as long as six months in prison, a fine or both.

The police minister has further warned against not wearing masks in public, as per the regulations, as this could result in one having a criminal record.

Asked what the judicial process was, particularly after one is arrested for not wearing a mask, Cele said:

“Now we will take you to the police station and we will take your fingerprints. You choose to pay a fine or you choose to see the magistrate. Both those processes give you a criminal record and that’s what South Africans must be very wary of — that this will immediately give you a criminal record and we know what criminal records do to your life,”

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Presh JM Reporter

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