Seventeen men were arrested in Pretoria West on Friday afternoon after they allegedly broke lockdown regulations by congregating at a mosque to worship.
The police’s Tactical Response Team found the group of worshippers after being alerted people were allegedly contravening Disaster Management Act regulations.
“The members responded to the complaint and found a group of people converged in a building at Retief Street in Pretoria West. The group [was] preparing to worship when they were discovered,” national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said.
A video, which has since gone viral, shows the arrest of the men who were congregating at what appears to be a mosque.
In the video, police officers can be seen entering the place of worship, walking over a row of shoes that were placed at the entrance.
One person in the video can be heard shouting in Afrikaans: “Kom, julle bliksems [Come, you bastards]” as they enter the building.
The worshippers can be seen kneeling down. Police officers then order the men lie on their stomachs.
Another police officer can be heard asking “what is going on here”.
READ | Muslims around the world prepare for Ramadaan under lockdown
One of the men tries to speak to the police officers, telling them he lives there. He also tells the officers he had told the other men not to come here.
“Hey, hey, f*ck, lay down man!” another police officer can be heard telling him.
Another tells him to “shut up, voetsek”.
The man continues to tell the police he works there. An officer responds again, telling him to “shut up, you asshole”.
A man then says: “Are you bigger than the president? Is Mohammed bigger than the president?”
Naidoo said the comments about the prophet Mohammed are “unfortunate and unacceptable”.
“The SAPS management has directed that this matter to be investigated and the person/s who uttered such comment/s about the prophet be identified and brought to book.”
Naidoo said the suspects faced charges relating to contravening the act.
They are in police custody, awaiting confirmation from the Department of Home Affairs of their nationalities.
“The suspects will either be released on bail, issued with a fine or taken to court on Tuesday, depending on the outcome of the preliminary investigation,” Naidoo added.
Not taking place
President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier wished Muslims on the continent well as they celebrate the holy month of Ramadaan.
He said it would not be the same as in previous years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Sadly, Ramadaan this year will not be as it was last year. We are in the shadow of a global public health emergency. The coronavirus pandemic has left no area of the world untouched.”
He added this meant “that many of the Ramadaan traditions like praying at the mosque, making the Umrah pilgrimage and visiting family and friends are not taking place”.