OR Tambo should be air­tight

CityPress - - Voices -

In 2006, when armed gun­men stole R100 mil­lion in for­eign and lo­cal cur­rency at one of South Africa’s key en­try points – OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port – author­i­ties promised to put an end to such acts of crim­i­nal­ity.

Dur­ing the trial, it emerged that the crim­i­nals had been plan­ning the crime for four months after they re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about a flight that was car­ry­ing a large amount of money.

Ini­tially, 15 sus­pects were ar­rested. Some were later ac­quit­ted, while oth­ers died dur­ing the trial. Even­tu­ally, oth­ers were jailed for the crime.

Author­i­ties, in­clud­ing po­lice and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, con­demned the heist and put in place mea­sures to pre­vent a re­cur­rence.

Fast-for­ward to Tues­day. A group of men, armed to the teeth, broke into the same air­port’s se­cure and re­stricted ar­eas, and made off with mil­lions of rands in cash. Not a sin­gle shot was fired.

Since the heist, Air­ports Com­pany SA (Acsa) and the po­lice have come out strongly (in words) to deal with the rob­bery.

In what ap­pears to be a re­play of the 2006 heist, Acsa this week said it had “fur­ther height­ened” se­cu­rity around the air­port, and had even re­placed se­cu­rity guards as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure while in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tin­ued.

Act­ing na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Kho­motso Phahlane said: “We are go­ing to in­crease and in­ten­sify our ef­forts there. In no way can we take any­thing for granted after what hap­pened ... We will deal with those gaps man­i­fest­ing them­selves in the se­cu­rity sys­tem...”

OR Tambo is the main en­try­way to South Africa, and is used by many oth­ers as a gate­way to the rest of the con­ti­nent. Yet, month in and month out, we hear of mul­ti­mil­lion-rand drug seizures and the smug­gling of con­tra­band through the air­port.

It is an open se­cret in se­cu­rity cir­cles that crim­i­nal syn­di­cates rel­ish the porous­ness of the air­port. It is also known that po­lice­men and cus­toms of­fi­cials love work­ing at the fa­cil­ity be­cause it guar­an­tees them a steady stream of il­licit in­come in the form of bribes.

Author­i­ties must en­sure that the air­port is air­tight. They must en­sure that trust­wor­thy po­lice and of­fi­cials work there, and that those who are in con­trol are be­yond re­proach.

An air­port named after one of our most pre­cious icons can­not be so in­ti­mately associated with ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties.

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