Review of the impact of the South African Police Service (SAPS) as frontline law enforcer on policing during the COVID-19 pandemic

Year Published 2021
Business unit: Special Projects
Resource type: Case study
File type: PDF
Theme(s): Crime and violence


With the onset of the State of Disaster, the South African Police Service (SAPS) saw its mandate expand to include the enforcement of Regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2000 (DMA). As the latter was a hitherto unknown task, the need for a review of the impact of SAPS’ frontline policing during COVID-19 and its ability to enforce the DMA Regulations while still executing its original mandate of maintaining the safety and security of all South Africans arose. Through interviews with a number of role players, which included SAPS members from various ranks and non-SAPS members from various national departments and stakeholders, an image emerged of SAPS as a pivotal role player spearheading the implementation of the DMA Regulations and the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Probing the role of existing structures such as JOCS and JOINTS, the responses from the government and the public, the networks and partnership that SAPS coordinated with, this study found that SAPS faced a multitude of challenges – including managing compliance in areas where the Regulations are tough to enforce and constrained capacity to do so. It also revealed the major changes the expanded mandate brought about, including the psychological impact on SAPS members, strengthened cooperation with various partners and stakeholders, the role of technology and resources in fulfilling this function and the impact that it has had on crime. With these changes in mind, several recommendations are put forth for future consideration.

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