South Africa’s “crime holiday”, experienced during the national Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, is over, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Presenting the country’s crime statistics for the second quarter of the year on Friday, Cele said in a surge of crimes between July and September, 5 107 people were murdered in South Africa, and more than 900 of those killed were in their homes.
He said that one of the worrying trends was an increase cash-in-transit heists, with 24 more cases recorded compared to the previous quarter. Cele said it was clear that armed gangs were becoming more desperate and ruthless as the year comes to a close.
“South Africa, I can assure you that the SA Police Service is not taking these brazen criminal acts lightly. I am pleased that there have been breakthroughs in taking down some of these criminal syndicates as well as recouping some of the stolen money,” said Cele.
He said that in September, members of the Tactical Response Team and officers from the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department took down a gang of cash-in-transit robbers in Dawn Park, Ekurhuleni. Five of the criminals were shot dead during a shoot-out at a safe house.
“Unfortunately, the owner of that house was an employee of the SAPS and he’s now facing the full might of the law for his role in the crime,” he said.
The minister said a multi-disciplinary driven investigation had also resulted in the recovery of more than R3.2 million of the stolen cash.
Livestock theft was also keeping the police busy. Cele described this as a serious problem that needs serious attention “not just from us as the police but other departments that can assist in curbing this crime”.
“Yesterday I met with farmers in the Free State who reached out to the SAPS and myself calling for intervention in the theft of their livestock. This crime is not unique to that part of the country. In the three months of reporting, there have been 7 339 cases of stock theft countrywide,” said Cele.
He said 26 322 sheep were stolen in the last three months and more than 14 000 cattle were also stolen and sold to abattoirs. The meat found its was on the plates of unsuspecting South Africans.
The minister said in order to deal stock theft properly, the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies would have to tackle the whole value chain – from the top right down to the butcheries – where the stolen meat usually ends up.
“This crime which I believe is a form of ‘economic sabotage’ needs to be tackled not just by the police but also have the buy-in of other departments that can assist in the tracking, tracing, marking and movement of stock,” said Cele.
He also noted that as the festive season approaches, criminals were trying to make up for the time lost during the “crime holiday” which was experienced in the first quarter of the financial year.
Cele said this was demonstrated by the increase in the country’s most feared crimes, which are residential robberies.
“While many citizens are still working from home due to the nationwide lockdown, incidents of home invasions have increased by 8.5%. On the other hand, cases of business robberies have declined by the same percentage,” he said.
The third leg of the so-called trio crimes – which is hijackings, decreased by 1.6%.