By Aneeqa Du Plessis
Despair, desperation and hunger appears to be on the rise as the country enters its fourth week of the COVID-19 national lockdown. The looting of shops, liquor stores and now trucks – what is alleged to be acts of criminality – have become frequent.
Two trucks loaded with food parcels for destitute communities were stoned and raided in Bonteheuwel yesterday. In videos doing the rounds on social media, a Checkers delivery truck can be seen ambushed by a handful of hooligans on Robert Sobukwe Drive. A driver and an assistant in one of the trucks were injured. Since then, four people have been arrested and will appear in the Bishop Lavis Magistrates court. Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said the swift police action was taken following several incidents of public violence and criminal behavior in Bishop Lavis earlier this week.
Western Cape Provincial Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz said that he condemns any form of criminality.
“The people who are being arrested are well versed criminals. These are not people who are hungry and are looking for a means to feed their family,” said Fritz.
However, Fritz stated that the government should have thought hard and long before implementing a lockdown and how it would adversely affect destitute communities.
“As government we need to get the balance right between allowing people to acquire an income but at the same time preventing the spread of the coronavirus,” stated Fritz.
For some, abiding by lockdown regulations may be a living hell, but for thugs it is business as usual.
“Criminals are flourishing under the lockdown circumstances, they are still selling their drugs and selling their liquor,” said Fritz.
However, Fritz commented that it is mainly the poor that are being affected by the strict rules put in place to curb the spread. Many work from hand-to-mouth and cannot afford to sustain themselves.
“Globally, the trends show that the most needy are the ones being most affected and that is the sad reality,” mentioned Fritz.
Fritz further said he could not understand the logic behind the ban on both Neighborhood Watches (NHW) and Community Policing Forums by National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. Fritz continued by saying that to avoid another occurrence of looting more boots are needed on the ground.
“This issue has been raised many times during our joint meetings and we are willing to provide our NHW members and CPF members with PPE so that their lives will not be in further danger,” pleaded Fritz.
Bishop Lavis Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairman Graham Lindhorst said they too condemn the looting that has taken place and are concerned with the misconduct that residents have displayed.
“We are gravely concerned that the looting will not stop and it will spiral out of control,” stated Lindhorst.
Residents of Kriefgat, the epicenter of yesterday’s looting, depend on the exchange of scrap metal which has enabled the lockdown to leave most of the residents jobless.
Lindhorst argued the lockdown was enforced under such abrupt circumstances and did not give citizens much chance to prepare for the financial implications.
“People are hungry and have no way to finance themselves and government hasn’t done much to assist them to begin with,” stated Lindhorst.
Lindhorst said four weeks have passed since the lockdown which means people have been out of work for a month and the money residents did have some 30 days ago has obviously run out.
“We are not saying it is right but when can you expect from one of the poorest communities on the Cape Flats?” concluded Lindhorst.
Lindhorst agreed with Fritz’s statement that the state needed to have a more sustainable feeding plan before introducing the lockdown.