Police Minister says criminals use coronavirus lockdown as cover to increase attacks

Durban – Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Wednesday criminals were using the country’s coronavirus outbreak to increase attacks on members of the public.

He made the remarks as part of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster briefing.

“This state of affairs is not acceptable. The cluster commits to ensuring that all members of the community are protected against all forms of crimes.

“We urge everyone to be vigilant and to protect themselves from the criminals. The cluster will be partnering with community policing forums and community safety forums to fight the surge of crime.”

South Africa has surpassed 110 days of its national lockdown, meant to curb the spread of the virus and enable its shambolic healthcare sector to prepare for a peak in infections.

The country lifted its stringent lockdown on June 1 and allowed schools to reopen and most businesses to resume. But on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa again enforced a night-time curfew and ban on the sale of alcohol as the country enters its surge period.

Ramaphosa said the ban was to keep hospital emergency rooms and ICUs clear of incidents related to boozing so that COVID cases could receive attention. The sale of tobacco products remains illegal.

Cele said that he “noted” the destruction of and damage to social and public infrastructure, some critical in the fight against the pandemic.

“Destroying and damaging public infrastructure is a criminal offence and anyone found to be damaging public property will be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.

The minister said he condemned the recent violence against foreign nationals, particularly in the trucking industry, “but we fully appreciate the frustration that our people are experiencing”.

“We need to continue to look for solutions that will address the plight of our local citizens while we make every effort to combat the violence associated with this.”

Covid-19 had worsened the social and economic impact on the livelihoods of citizens, which was a national and global problem, he said.

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