Crooks cash­ing in on booze, smokes — Cele

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page - Aphiwe Deklerk

Po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele ad­mits or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cates have taken ad­van­tage of the lock­down to ex­pand the il­le­gal trade in il­licit and coun­ter­feit al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes.

His ad­mis­sion about the in­crease in these crimes ap­pears to give cre­dence to crit­ics of the gov­ern­ment’s strict reg­u­la­tions on the ban of both prod­ucts.

Crit­ics have ar­gued that the ban would open space for con­tra­band.

“We know crim­i­nals are op­por­tunis­tic‚ so or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cates have taken ad­van­tage of the lock­down‚ es­pe­cially the ban on al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes,” Cele told a press brief­ing yes­ter­day.

“They have ex­panded their trade in il­licit and coun­ter­feit al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes.”

Cele said about R2.67m in “con­tra­band” items had been con­fis­cated at SA’s bor­ders.

Smug­gling of liquor and tobacco prod­ucts be­tween SA’s land bor­ders with Botswana‚ Eswa­tini‚ Le­sotho‚ Mozam­bique and Zim­babwe‚ as well as the sale of these prod­ucts on the black mar­ket, had also in­creased.

“Our lock­down part­ners‚ the SANDF‚ have dis­rupted some of these op­er­a­tions‚ mainly along SA bor­ders with Mozam­bique‚ Zim­babwe and eSwati‚” Cele said.

He said they had con­fis­cated con­tra­band‚ in­clud­ing al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes‚ worth about R1.07m in March and R1.6m in April.

His ad­mis­sion also comes af­ter re­search showed the ban on cig­a­rette sales did not nec­es­sar­ily stop ac­cess to the prod­ucts.

Cele re­vealed that 230‚000 peo­ple had been charged with con­tra­ven­tion of lock­down reg­u­la­tions‚ in­clud­ing “liquor-re­lated of­fences and cig­a­rette-re­lated of­fences‚ il­le­gal gath­er­ings‚ fail­ure to con­fine to place of res­i­dence‚ cross-bor­der and in­ter­provin­cial move­ment‚ business-re­lated and trans­port-re­lated of­fences and fraud­u­lent or no per­mits”.

The prov­inces with the high­est num­ber of ar­rests for the con­tra­ven­tion of lock­down reg­u­la­tions “al­most mir­ror the pro­vin­cial in­fec­tion rates‚ with Western Cape in the lead‚ fol­lowed by East­ern Cape‚ KwaZulu-Na­tal and Gaut­eng”‚ Cele said.

He also an­nounced a big de­cline in crime un­der the lock­down.

“In re­la­tion to se­ri­ous and vi­o­lent crime, we an­nounced in April that there was a dra­matic de­cline in, es­pe­cially, the con­tact crime cat­e­gory, which in­cludes do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, as well as in trio crimes of house and business rob­beries, and hi­jack­ings.

“Again, this time around, we have com­pared crime since the lock­down to crime over the same

pe­riod in 2019. While the fig­ures re­main low, com­par­a­tively speak­ing, we have noted slight in­creases in some crime cat­e­gories,” Cele said.

He said the rea­sons be­hind the num­bers were yet to be de­ter­mined.

Com­par­ing the pe­ri­ods of March 29 to May 21 2019 vs March 27 to May 2020, Cele said:

● Mur­der was down by 63.9%, from 2,970 cases to 1,072 cases;

● Rape was down 82%, from 5,350 to 919 cases;

● At­tempted mur­der down 56%, from 2,571 to 1,132 cases;

● As­sault with the in­tent to cause griev­ous bod­ily harm (GBH) was down 80.4%, from 22,144 to 4,348 cases; and

● Rob­bery with ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances was down 63.3%, from 14,822 to 5,397 cases.

He said car hi­jack­ing was down by 70%, rob­bery at non­res­i­den­tial premises de­clined by 60%, and rob­bery at res­i­den­tial premises was down by 49%.

“When we com­pare in­ci­dents of cash-in-tran­sit rob­beries dur­ing the lock­down to the same pe­riod in 2019, the num­ber has dropped re­mark­ably from 26 to only four in­ci­dents,” Cele said.

He said though the lock­down fig­ures for se­ri­ous and vi­o­lent crime were still lower in com­par­i­son with 2019, po­lice had noted an in­crease in hi­jack­ings, es­pe­cially when com­par­ing the first two weeks of the lock­down when SA was un­der level five to the first two weeks of level four lock­down re­stric­tions.

“Most hi­jack­ing in­ci­dents were recorded in Gaut­eng, fol­lowed by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Na­tal and East­ern Cape,” Cele said.

He said there had also been a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in the num­ber of re­ported gen­der­based vi­o­lence cases. TimesLIVE

Pho­to­graph: GCIS

GOOD AND BAD: Po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele says there has been a sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in crime dur­ing the coun­try’s lock­down, but syn­di­cates are cap­i­tal­is­ing on the al­co­hol and cig­a­rette ban

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