Bheki Cele gets tough on masks and warns restaurants: 'Do not put alcohol in teapots'

Police minister Bheki Cele has urged South Africans to observe the new regulations. File image.
Police minister Bheki Cele has urged South Africans to observe the new regulations. File image.
Image: Esa Alexander

Police minister Bheki Cele has issued a clarion call to all South Africans to respect and abide by the new rules and regulations, failing which they will be arrested.

Cele was briefing the media a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he was placing the country on alert level 3 with immediate effect after recommendations made by the national coronavirus command council (NCCC), the president’s co-ordinating council (PCC) and the cabinet.

“The wearing of masks has been a problem for a very long time.

“The police have been out there making a plea that people must wear their masks and up to this point has been found to be one of the major preventatives that can be used to prevent the virus from spreading,” said Cele.

He said the police were pleased that enforcement has been heightened.

“We are not going to just remind you or tell you to wear a mask. If you don’t wear it, you will definitely be arrested.

“The situation of arrest is on the regulations that it might be a month, up to six months or both fine and six months so people are beginning to ask how much the fine will be.

“We would have loved not to arrest you, we would love not to fine you, but if you avail yourself, we will take the opportunity of arresting you, we will definitely not deny the opportunity to arrest you.

“But if you [break] the law, the prisons, the police stations are not empty, but definitely there is a space if you break the law. We will not say we do not have the space if you get arrested. So keep those masks on all the time in the public space, failing which you will become a client of the SA Police Service to take you and put you in there and charge you.

“Unfortunately, most of you will have criminal records and you know what criminal records do in your lives going forward. So we are shouting, we are making a clarion call for people to respect this. But if you don’t, we are going beyond the plea - we are going to make sure that there are consequences.”

On alcohol, Cele said it cannot be sold anywhere, whether off or on premises or establishments.

“This means wherever alcohol is now, [it] stays there. There is no movement, no bottle, no can of any form of alcohol in your boot, no transportation, no distribution, no taking alcohol from next door to next door. You will only keep the alcohol where it is at the present moment.

“You don’t take it from section A to section B to go and enjoy. You will drink the alcohol that you find there. Anything that is transported, whether transported in the boot of your car, hands or feet, self or head, the alcohol shall not be from where it is. You will be arrested.”

Cele said there were people who were sabotaging the economy by operating a black market.

“Our eyes are very much open on that. We are going to be tough and we really advise that those who have licences and have permission to trade alcohol, if they break the law and they sell it illegally, those licences must be taken away and they must be taken to prison.”

In his announcement Ramaphosa said the level 3 restrictions would remain in place until January 15. However, Cele said the regulations will not be lifted automatically after two weeks, rather they will be reviewed.

When it comes to public spaces, Cele said the police would act “reasonably” but he emphasised that if people were caught drinking in public spaces, they will be arrested.

“You will only drink alcohol in your house, your mother’s house, father’s house ... Don’t take it out there ... The non-sale of alcohol is the non-sale of alcohol - do not put alcohol in teapots in your restaurants or in bottles ... We know your tricks, don’t invite the police to come and check whether there is really Rooibos in there or there is something else in the teapot. We will make sure that you lose your licence if you don’t abide.”

He urged communities to report people breaking the law, including those who are spreading the virus, to the police hotline 10111 because, “that is a serious offence”.

On the issue of the curfew, Cele said, “If we find you between 9pm and 6am, vagabonding and going out there, we will make sure that you go and greet the magistrate and create you a criminal record that might take you to prison.

“So it is important that [at] one minute past nine, every South African is in his or her house ... Especially we want to urge the young people because there is this narrative that they do not suffer from this. But everybody is a victim, no-one is safe, everybody is vulnerable, so we need to work together on that.”

On funerals, Cele said the police will not hesitate to stop funerals that are taking place illegally.

He reminded the nation that police officers were also human and asked South Africans to play their part during this difficult period.

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