Crowds attacked delivery trucks in Cape Town stoning, hijacking and ransacking vehicles to take food and other provisions during the coronavirus lockdown, city authorities said.
South Africa is almost a month into restrictions ordering the population to stay home apart from essential trips – leaving many without wages and short of supplies.
The city council said was a surge in looting since lockdown started on March 27, some involving criminals taking advantage of the crisis.
“This morning I had calls from residents saying people are putting bricks on the road to intercept trucks,” JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, told Reuters.
Officials are asking trucking companies for details of routes and trips to a control centre so council could co-ordinate security arrangements, he said.
The city has a reserve security team on standby to respond to incidents and worked closely with the defence for ce and police, Smith added. “We don’t have the resources to protect every truck.”
Smith said a group of people tried to force a truck off the R300 freeway on Wednesday. They failed then the crowd chased away a lone private security guard protecting the vehicle, he added.
Hundreds then tried to invade a nearby shopping complex before police stopped them, Smith said.
Videos online showed people taking goods from a truck belonging to Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite.
The footage, not verified by Reuters, showed holes in the windscreen at the side of road in Netreg, a poor suburb .
Another video shows a man throwing stones at a truck as motorists hoot and speed by. The white truck slows down before speeding past the stone thrower. Footage then pans to show a smaller truck on its side and people running towards it in Belhar.
“We find ourselves facing a humanitarian crisis because of the lockdown and the economic challenges that follow are only going to exacerbate these challenges. Acts of criminality will not be tolerated,” said Albert Fritz, Western Cape minister of community safety in a statement.
Earlier this month, police minister Bheki Cele said a ban on alcohol sales helped lower crime during the lockdown. With liquor stores shut, officers report a growing black market for alcohol and attacks on shuttered shops.