Lockdown: Surge in loot from alcohol stores, vandalism of schools in SA

PTI, Apr 14, 2020, 10:55 AM IST

Johannesburg: South Africa has witnessed a surge in crimes related to the ban on alcohol sale as well as vandalism of schools during the current national lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said on Monday that she was “horrified” at the alarming number of 183 schools being vandalised and damaged since the COVID-19 lockdown began on 27 March.

The lockdown was extended for a further two weeks until the end of April as South Africa tries to keep the number of coronavirus infections in check.

The vandals steal valuable electronic equipment such as computers from the schools, usually to exchange for drugs and alcohol.

“It is quite disheartening that criminal elements in our communities could destroy the infrastructure (of schools) of their own children with such apparent impunity,” he said.

“I am in constant touch with the Minister of Police, and with the assistance of the State Intelligence Forces, we are following leads for the immediate arrest and prosecution of every single criminal responsible,” Motshekga said.

“These schools will be the hardest hit as there could be delays in the implementation of the curriculum recovery plan when schools finally reopen (after the lockdown),” Motshekga added.

There has also been an unprecedented number of burglaries from liquor stores which have been closed down by the lockdown regulations.

Police Minister Bheki Cele suggested that a syndicate could be behind the 16 burglaries at liquor stores so far, especially in Western Cape province.

In the latest case, two police officers and a liquor store manager were arrested for colluding in the theft of stock from a store.

The liquor was allegedly destined to be sold on the black market at up to four times the retail price.

In a similar incident in Mpumalanga province, two officers were arrested over the Easter long weekend after the state vehicle they were driving illegally escorted three trucks laden with liquor.

All the vehicles allegedly belonged to a tavern owner, who was also arrested with two other drivers for contravening the lockdown regulations restricting the movement of liquor.

Cele said that it was alarming that police officers have been arrested for links to illegal alcohol trade during the lockdown.

Later, the police ministry confirmed that 21 suspects had been arrested for some of the liquor store break-ins, four of whom allegedly initiated the first such incident during the first week of the lockdown.

Cele said that some of the burglaries seemed planned while others were spontaneous.

He has called for an urgent meeting between senior police management and liquor retailers to address the situation.

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