Police Minister Bheki Cele says almost 300 000 people have been arrested since March for contravening the regulations put in place in terms of the Disaster Management Act and nationwide lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce a further easing of lockdown regulations in the coming days with some reports saying alcohol and tobacco product sales may be allowed.
Cele says the majority of arrests were for the transportation of alcohol as well as cross-border related offences. He says it is unfortunate that so many South Africans will now have criminal records.
“To date, 298 252 people have been arrested and charged with contravention of the Disaster Management Act. 181 579 were released on warning to appear before the court. 28 337 of these arrested were found guilty of violations ranging from liquor, gathering, transport business and cross-border related offences. Unfortunately, most of the people arrested will come out with criminal records and it is not our aim to criminalise South Africans.”
However, Minister Cele says South Africa has experienced a crime holiday from April to June this year. It is the same period when South Africa was in Level 5 and Level 4 of the lockdown – also known as the “hard lockdown”.According to the statistics, the crime started to increase when alcohol was unbanned on the first of June.
“It is also the time that we as a country must start a frank and open discussion about alcohol and the real effect it has on society. The evidence is clear from these figures that the absence of alcohol leads to safer societies,” Cele argues. Gauteng and the Western Cape Gauteng and the Western Cape saw the biggest drop in crime during the hard lockdown period between April and June this year. Gauteng had a drop of 45 524 in reported serious crime cases compared to the same period last year. Less serious crimes cases in Gauteng dropped by 30 217. The same trend continued with contact crimes in the two provinces. Assault and liquor Police identify arguments and misunderstandings in homes as the biggest reasons for assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm during the hard lockdown period from April to June this year. The police’s quarterly statistics show liquor was involved in most of the crimes. Liquor was involved in a total of 284 assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm cases, in 113 rape cases, 56 murder cases and 11 attempted murder cases. Burglary
Burglary of non-residential properties went up during the same period with 9.1%. According to the statistics, 2 692 educational facilities were broken into and 1 246 liquor outlets or shops were broken into.
“Some were organised and some were spontaneous because there are people that have been arrested as groups. And the fact that even the stolen goods would have been kept somewhere by not the people that stole it like your kitchen equipment, like your fridge and stoves. So it was a combination of organised criminality and spontaneous individual. People that would have been there.”
Cele says they acknowledge that the circumstances that led to the decline in numbers were extraordinary and the combination of high police visibility, the ban on the sale of alcohol and people staying at home, created the circumstances for the low crime rates.
“You saw in the presentation that as we go to low lockdown we go to the higher in terms of crimes committed. We expect crime to increase and we have our lessons how we deal with those issues of crime increase.”
He says the lessons learned during this period will be used to inform future crime-fighting initiatives. Murder increased sharply from April to June from 752 people to 1 753 as the lockdown rules were relaxed from Level 5 to Level 3. The Western Cape had the highest murder rate, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.