Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday briefed the media on the crime statistics since the implementation of the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In March, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster, confining South Africans to their homes as local transmissions of COVID-19 began to increase. In April, the President announced the introduction of the five alert levels to the lockdown, easing regulations as the levels are lowered.
He announced the country would move down from level 5, the strictest, to level 4 to allow the strategic resumption of economic activities.
In his briefing, Cele gave statistics comparing crime levels from the same period last year and during the lockdown.
HERE ARE SOME KEY POINTS FROM THE MINISTER’S BRIEFING:
– Arrests for contravention of regulations:
“At one point towards the end of April, when we were still on Level 5, we had about 107,000 cases opened with 118,000 people charged for contravention of the lockdown regulations. In just over a month, this number has more than doubled and is almost at 230,000.”
– Increase in smuggling of contraband between borders:
“Our lockdown partners the SANDF, have disrupted some of these illegal operations mainly along South Africa’s borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe; and confiscated contraband including alcohol and cigarettes worth about R1,07 million in March and R1,6 million in April.”
– Dramatic decrease in contact crimes:
– Sharp decrease in domestic violence:
“If we compare the period 27 March to 21 May 2019 with the lockdown period from 27 March to 19 May 2020, there is a sharp decrease from 21,033 in 2019, to 6,651 cases of domestic violence during the lockdown, giving us a percentage decrease of 68,4%.”
_- Extension of firearm amnesty period _
“We have written to Parliament to request for an extension after noticing the sharp decline in voluntary handovers during the lockdown. Since December, firearms and ammunition were handed in their thousands, and then in April, only 385 were handed in.”
WHAT CAME OUT OF THE QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
– ‘Use deadly force’ – Judge worried about statements by Minister of Police
“We will never call on the brutality of the police, but we will never call on the police to be sacrificial lambs. We have never called on the police to be brutal and get outside of the law, because police themselves you find that they are under attack and then they have to defend themselves.”
Minister Cele said that five members of the police had been brutally killed during the lockdown.
He said that he would not comment on the case of Collins Khosa from Alexandra who died while being arrested by members of the SAPS and SANDF.
– What’s in store under level 3:
South Africans are waiting anxiously for lockdown regulations to be scaled down to level 3, when regulations are expected to be less strict. But Cele gave away very little on what exactly can be expected under level 3.
“What is on level 3? I don’t know. It will be announced on level 3 and ours as the police is to implement level 3 as it is comes.”
– Criminal records for people arrested for contravening lockdown regulations:
Cele said that the Justice Department was looking into the thousands of people who had been charged and found guilty for contravening lockdown regulations having criminal records. The minister didn’t want to get into too much detail on the matter, saying he would leave that to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.
“The Minister of Justice is looking at that to see how the Justice Department can work around that, together with the police. I don’t want to pre-empt that process, we hope when the process is done we will know as the police and justice what to do about that.”
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