Police Minister Bheki Cele has condemned the burglary and looting of at least 16 liquor outlets in the Western Cape since the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown.
Minister Cele visited the province on Saturday and was accompanied by Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale, the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Kehla Sitole and Deputy National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Sandile Mfazi,
Cele commended the Western Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata and her team, for the swift arrest of 21 suspects, four of whom were allegedly behind the first looting incident at a Shoprite Liquor Store in Langa, Cape Town over the first weekend of the lockdown.
The Minister also noted with concern the alleged involvement of police members in some of the liquor related crimes during the lockdown.
This follows the arrest of two Warrant Officers from the Delft FCS Unit in the Western Cape. The officers were arrested together with a liquor store manager and a cashier in Strand on Thursday. The arrest follows a tip-off that saw police pounce on the suspects inside the store, buying liquor that was allegedly going to be resold illegally elsewhere.
Meanwhile in Mpumalanga, two members stationed at SAPS Pienaar were arrested on Friday night, 10 April 2020 for defeating the ends of justice after the state vehicle they were driving was stopped and found to have been illegally escorting three bakkies, each loaded to capacity with liquor.
The three vehicles allegedly belong to a tavern owner who was also arrested with two other drivers for contravening the lockdown regulations in relation to the restriction on the movement of liquor.
In line with the SAPS Anti-Corruption Strategy, the National Commissioner, General Sitole sanctioned urgent departmental investigations into the two incidents through which, if found guilty, the members could face dismissal from the service.
An urgent meeting between Minister Cele and SAPS management is on the cards where together the police leadership will engage liquor retailers to address this problem and work out a collaborative strategy towards mitigating this emerging risk.
The Minister issued a stern warning to those who continue to undermine the efforts of government to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.
“The general crime picture since the COVID-19 lockdown continues to reflect a decrease and such incidents must therefore be intercepted and the perpetrators arrested.
“Our law abiding citizens must continue to work with law enforcement against criminals as we together ensure the survival of the human race against the COVID-19,” said the Minister as he acknowledged the cooperation by the public who continue to give tip-offs.
Updates on other arrests and statistics on crime during the lockdown, will be given by the Minister of Police at a later stage.
Wrapping up the visit to the Western Cape, Minister Cele commended businesses in Mbekweni and Kraaifontein for playing their part in ensuring that shoppers observe social distancing and have access to sanitisers as they enter and exit the stores.
The Minister also noted with concern the high risk of exposure to infections in relation to the positioning of street hawkers who were stationed too close to each other on the pavements, with little attention to the protocols set down for the lockdown.
“The Provincial SAPS will engage with the provincial government towards finding a solution to ensuring that licensed vendors operate within the confines of the COVID-19 Disaster Management Lockdown Regulations,” said the Minister.